What’s your favorite part of the holiday season? Is it the festive lights and colorful decorations adorning homes and businesses? The spirit of giving? The opportunity to come together with family and friends?
And then, of course, there’s the food. This time of year is all about celebrating tradition, and there’s no shortage of iconic seasonal treats and holiday foods that trigger a comforting sense of nostalgia (and taste great, too).
Dentists love the holiday season as much as anyone else. So how do we balance eating the foods we love with protecting our mouths from decay and disease? It’s about knowing which edibles are good for dental health, and knowing which may harm our teeth and gums — and keeping consumption of those to a minimum.
At Aberdeen Smiles, we look forward to helping keep your family’s smiles healthy for life. To book checkups, call our Aberdeen, SD dental office at 605-277-9049.
Holiday Foods Your Teeth and Gums Love
Load up on these tooth-friendly holiday foods. They are great for gatherings and good for dental health.
Raw, Crunchy Vegetables
A beautiful crudite platter is a colorful addition to any party spread — and an excellent way to balance a heavy holiday meal. Think carrots, celery, peppers, and other high-fiber vegetables. When you chew on them, they stimulate your gums and increase the flow of saliva in your mouth, which helps rinse out food and bacteria. And, of course, they are packed with health-boosting vitamins and minerals. Serve with a tasty homemade dip.
Cheese is a true superfood when it comes to your dental health. Like all dairy products, it is an excellent source of protein and calcium. Calcium is a mineral that’s stored in your teeth and bones and provides their structure and strength. Cheese is special even for a dairy product though. Studies have shown that eating it raises the pH level in the mouth. The higher the pH, the less hospitable the environment for bacteria. So cheese provides protection against tooth decay. Rich, creamy cheese is also delicious, of course. And there’s so much variety! Find a good cheesemonger to help you pick out a selection to set out for your guests.
Set out bowls of mixed nuts during your holiday gatherings, toss toasted nuts in salads. They also make an excellent topping for vegetable side dishes. Nuts are low in sugar and a rich source of protein and a variety of other vitamins and minerals. When you eat them, you stimulate saliva production in your mouth, helping to keep it nice and clean.
Leafy green vegetables such as kale, collard greens, spinach, watercress, and Swiss chard are rich in tooth-strengthening calcium and a host of other vitamins and minerals. They are also extremely versatile — there are a host of tasty ways to make them part of your holiday meal. Use them as a base for salads (incorporate nuts and cheese for extra tooth-friendliness), saute with garlic, cream them or use in a showstopping gratin.
Practice Moderation with These Holiday Favorites
We aren’t going to tell you to ban these foods (and drink) altogether, but do consider them treats and minimize how much you and your family consume. If possible, brush your teeth after eating them. If that’s not practical, follow them up with a glass of of water to help keep your mouth clean.
Rich, creamy, and cloyingly sweet, eggnog is bad news for your teeth. It coats your mouth in liquid sugar, which settles into the grooves of your teeth and is difficult to remove. This provides nourishment for bacteria, which produce acids that bore into your enamel and lead to decay. If you spike your eggnog with booze, that’s doubly dangerous: alcohol also has a corrosive effect on your teeth. So if you must get your eggnog fix, savor one small cup — then switch to water.
We’re all for using festive, brightly striped candy canes as a Christmas tree decoration, but keep consumption of them to a minimum. Hard candies are tough on your dental health because when you eat them, the dissolved sugar mixes with your saliva and forms a bacteria-friendly coating on your teeth. If you prefer crunching them, you risk breaking or chipping a tooth. And a holiday dental emergency definitely isn’t festive!
Fruit cake is a dental health danger due to its sweetness and moist, dense texture. That rich cake and sticky candied fruits will settle into the nooks and crannies of your mouth and encourage bacterial growth. So eat with caution.