The Holidays are just about here. You know what that means: parties, gatherings with loved ones, and food. Lots of it. This season is all about nostalgia, tradition, and bringing out those family favorites and holiday staples that you may see only once per year.
If you’ve been eagerly anticipating eggnog’s appearance on the grocery store shelves, we aren’t saying you have to deprive yourself altogether. But certain beloved holiday foods should be consumed with moderation in mind. Because as delicious as they are, they don’t do any favors for your dental health.
Happily, other holiday edibles are actually beneficial for your teeth and gums. So go ahead, eat these with abandon!
Good Holiday Food Choices
Nuts are delightfully crunchy, flavorful, and great for your oral health. Put out bowls of mixed nuts for people to eat as they mingle and sip drinks, toss with salads, use as a topping for vegetable side dishes. Nuts are low in sugar and other carbohydrates, so they don’t promote the growth of harmful bacteria. They contain calcium and phosphorus, two minerals that your body needs for strong teeth and bones. When you chew nuts, saliva production in your mouth increases, which helps wash away bacteria and pieces of food.
Leafy green vegetables like kale, spinach, watercress, and Swiss chard are packed with all sorts of vitamins, minerals, and good things for your body. They are a rich source of calcium — one of the building blocks of your teeth and bones. Dark leafy greens make a delicious and sophisticated alternative to lettuce in winter salads. They are fantastic simply sauteed with garlic and olive oil. They can even be roasted or used in a gratin.
So varied, so flavorful, so delicious. And so good for your teeth. Cheese, being a dairy product, is packed with bone-building calcium. It also contains proteins called caseins, which are believed to bond together and form a coating over the teeth that protects the enamel from destructive acids. According to recent studies, cheese also seems to have a benefit that other dairy products don’t share: it raises the pH level in the mouth. This matters because higher pH levels protect the teeth and gums from decay. A cheese tray with condiments is always a crowd-pleasing choice at a party. Cheese also makes a delicious addition to salads.
What epitomizes the holidays like a beautifully roasted turkey gracing the table? The star of the show, turkey is also good for your teeth. Like other lean proteins, turkey is loaded with phosphorus. You know that calcium builds your bones and teeth; well, it needs phosphorus to do its job properly. You may want to hold off on the sugary cranberry sauce, though.
Not-So-Great Holiday Food Choices
These cheerful red-and-white striped treats are everywhere this time of year. But try to keep their role to decorating the Christmas tree — and limit the number that you (and your kids) eat. Like other hard candies, candy canes dissolve in your mouth, creating a slurry of saliva and dissolved sugar. This mixture settles all over your teeth, including in the grooves, and is difficult to remove completely. Bacteria feed on the sugar, proliferate, and emit acids that destroy your tooth enamel and lead to decay. If you are the impatient type and chew your candy canes, you’re not better off: you risk cracking or chipping a tooth!
Eggnog tastes good because it’s so rich and sweet. But all that sugary goodness coats your teeth, settles into all the grooves, nooks, and crannies, and creates ripe conditions for a bacterial feeding frenzy. Bacteria give off acids as they feed, and those acids eat into the tooth enamel, leaving you vulnerable to cavities. If you must have a cup of eggnog, brush your teeth right afterward — or at least follow it up with a glass of water.
For fruitcake lovers (we know you’re out there), the sweet, dense cake is a holiday-season highlight. However, fruitcake should be consumed in moderation as it can wreak havoc on the teeth. Because of its moist, heavy texture and chewy candied fruits, it has a tendency to get stuck in the grooves of the teeth and promote bacterial growth.
All of us at Highland Advanced Dental Care wish you a wonderful and tooth-friendly holiday season! Be sure to get your next checkup with us in the books: fill out our online form or call 248-329-3552.