The holiday season is filled with joy as we get to spend time with family and friends. Holiday parties abound with food, drink, and laughter. There is so much going on during this time of year that we often forget to consider how our holiday habits are affecting our dental health. If you want to maintain good oral health during the holidays, follow these dental care tips.

Go Easy on the Sweets

We all love the sugary goodness that can be found only around the holidays, often in the form of candy canes, cookies, and other holiday desserts. If you are constantly eating these sweets, their sugars can cause a lot of harm to your teeth, including cavities and tooth decay. However, you don’t have to miss out on enjoying holiday treats. Instead of snacking on them throughout the day, limit yourself to eating sweets just one time per day, then be sure to brush your teeth afterwards. If you’re at a party and can’t brush your teeth, then rinse your mouth with some water to keep the sugars from sticking to your teeth. This reduces the length of time your teeth will be exposed to sugar, lessening its harmful effects.

When enjoying sweets, timing is everything. If you are going to indulge in sugary treats, it is best to do so with a meal or shortly after eating. This is because you produce more saliva during a meal. Saliva helps to wash away food debris and sugars from the teeth and can neutralize the acids that the bacteria in your mouth produce. The extra saliva present around mealtime will help rinse the sugar from your teeth and reduce the harm it causes.

Avoid Chewy Treats and Hard Candies

Chewy, sticky treats are some of the worst foods for your teeth. The sticky material attaches itself to teeth and won’t let go, prolonging your teeth’s exposure to the sugar. Sticky substances like caramel and taffy can even pull your fillings out. Hard candies are almost just as bad for your dental health. When you suck on a hard candy, it sits in your mouth for a very long time, which means your teeth are sitting in sugar soup for an extended time. This promotes cavity formation. Chewing on hard candies can also result in chipped or cracked teeth. Avoiding chewy treats and hard candies is an important part of your holiday dental care so that you do not end up with tooth damage.

Watch Your Alcohol Intake

Holiday gatherings are often flowing with eggnog and festive cocktails. Because this is the only time of year when these special alcoholic drinks are available, it’s hard not to give in. Too much alcohol, however, can be detrimental to your dental health. The high sugar content in these drinks can cause cavities and tooth decay. Alcohol also reduces the production of saliva and dries out your mouth, and a dry mouth is much more prone to tooth decay and gum disease. Colored drinks, especially those with dark pigments such as red wine, can stain your teeth as well. For your dental care, we recommend drinking water along with your alcoholic drink. This will keep your mouth from drying out and will rinse offensive sugars and pigments from your teeth.

Remember: Your Teeth Are Not Tools

This dental care tip should be adhered to no matter what time of year it is, but during the holiday season it seems especially important to emphasize it. We know how tempting it can be to use your teeth to open a new package or to quickly pop the top off a bottle when the proper tools are not nearby, and some people even decide to use their teeth as nutcrackers during the holidays, too. Do not do this! Using your teeth for purposes other than eating can be disastrous for your dental health. This simple mistake can lead to a broken a tooth, causing you a lot of pain and resulting in expensive tooth repair. Take the extra minute to find the proper tools for the task at hand. Search for scissors or a knife to open your package, and find a church key or other safe way to open that bottle. And always use a nutcracker to shell nuts.

Dentists often see a rise in tooth damage during the holiday season, and this mostly results from people using their teeth for things for which they are not meant. Dental emergencies are not fun and can be very painful. Minor cracks or chips do not require immediate medical attention, but if you severely break your tooth, you need to see a dentist within 24 hours of the break. To deal with a broken tooth, you should first call your dentist, then rinse your mouth with warm salt water and use a cold compress on your cheek near the break to reduce inflammation. Gauze can be used to control the bleeding. You can take over-the-counter pain relievers as needed. If you break your tooth while your dentist is closed for the holidays, you can get dental cement from a drug store to use as a temporary fix until you can see a dentist. You can also ask your dentist for a referral for an emergency dental clinic so that you are prepared in case of a dental emergency.

Happy Holidays from Your Knoxville Dentist

This holiday season, practice good dental care to keep your smile healthy. At University General Dentists, we want you to be able to enjoy your holiday festivities without dental health problems getting in the way. To avoid issues during the holidays, keep these dental care tips in mind. As good practice, whenever you eat something that you think might be bad for your teeth, rinse your mouth out with water immediately afterwards, followed by brushing. If you currently have a dental issue, University General Dentists can help you resolve it before the holidays arrive so that you can fully enjoy your time with family and friends. This season is also a great time to see your general dentist for a regular cleaning or check-up. We have two convenient locations in Knoxville, making it easy for you to maintain good dental health with our help. Reach out to us today to set up an appointment. Contact our University of Tennessee Medical Center Office at 865-305-9440 or our West Knoxville office at 865-500-5700.