The holidays are upon us, and 'tis the season for a bit of togetherness (and a lot of indulgence). We don't all celebrate the same holidays or adhere to the same belief systems, but there is one thing that seems to unite us all: comfort food.
Cold weather and sweets go hand-in-hand. What's a good snowball fight without a warm cup of cocoa to come home to? Even in warmer climates, it's difficult to dissuade dreams of sugar plums after a good night of classic movies with your family. So, while this "soul food" may be good for your spirits, take a moment to think about what it's doing to your teeth.
How Could Something So Good Be So Bad?
Sugar can wreak havoc on your pearly whites. It's a complicated process, but here's the scoop. Bacteria in your mouth use your sweets as energy, growing and multiplying faster than they would otherwise. Some bond with the sugar to form a sticky glue called plaque. Plaque, in turn, produces acid. The acid dissolves the minerals that make your tooth enamel hard, and the surface becomes porous. The acid causes these tiny holes in the enamel to become bigger until one large hole appears. This is a cavity.
Does This Mean No More?
While ideally we would never expose our teeth to sugar or anything else that promotes tooth decay, that's just not realistic. All we can do is try to minimize the damage. Don't let your holiday routine interrupt your dental care regimen. Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste (unless you're a young tyke), and floss at least once.
If you decide to indulge in more sweets than usual, it's a good idea to brush more often. If you don't have your toothbrush on hand, rinse your mouth out with warm water. Certain sugar-free gums can help as well. Choose those with Xylitol, an artificial sweetener that can help prevent tooth decay. And finally, try to mix up your snacks. If you're eating a sugary treat, try to also eat a bit of cheese (or a similar protein) as well.