The holidays are upon us! As we get ready to consume more food and drinks, we need to keep our oral and overall health in check. Each slice of honey glazed ham, sip of egg nog, and slice of pie affects your teeth, gums, breath, and general health.
Tooth decay occurs when the sugars in candy and other sweets mix with bacteria in the sticky plaque that forms on teeth. This interaction produces acid that wears away at your tooth’s enamel. Did you know that the average American consumes 3 pounds of sugar a week?
The American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 9.5 teaspoons of sugar per day. Not only do we consume more than twice that every day on average, but a can of soda alone has 10 teaspoons and we drink 53 gallons of the stuff every year!
The obvious problem with this extreme amount of sugar consumption is the toll that it can take on our health. In addition to the better-known sugar-related health complications like diabetes and obesity, people can experience aching limbs, depression, and hypertension from too much sugar. From this perspective, the true cost of a can of soda is a lot more than $1.
The first step in cutting down on sugar intake, is realizing how much we are taking in.
While the holidays are an especially important time to focus on managing our sweet tooth, we should always keep these tips in mind to help protect our pearly whites:
- Do not graze with sweet snacks. Eat one treat after a meal, rather than several throughout the day, so you limit the time your teeth are exposed to cavity causing sugars and acids.
- Brush your teeth after snacking. If brushing is not an option, drink a glass of water to help wash away the sugar and neutralize the acid. This will help stimulate saliva flow and have the same effect.
- Do not snack after brushing your teeth at night. Sugars on teeth overnight feed cavity-causing bacteria.
- Limit the consumption of sugary drinks like juice and soda. When you do drink them, use a straw, which limits the sugary beverage’s contact with teeth.
- Drink fluoridated water and use fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride’s protection Take care of your teeth and gums. Thorough tooth brushing and flossing to reduce dental plaque can prevent gingivitis—the mildest form of gum disease.
- Limit alcohol. Heavy use of alcohol is also a risk factor for oral and throat cancers.
- Eat wisely. Adults should avoid snacks full of sugars and starches. The recommended five-a-day helping of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables stimulates salivary flow to aid remineralization of tooth surfaces with early stages of tooth decay. Pick low-sugar options like carrots, bananas, cheese, whole wheat crackers, pickles, milk, plain yogurt, or unsalted nuts.
- Visit the dentist regularly. Check-ups can detect early signs of oral health problems and can lead to treatments that will prevent further damage, and in some cases, reverse the problem. Professional tooth cleaning also is important for preventing oral problems, especially when self-care is difficult.