Although traditional Holiday feasts give you lots of opportunities to socialise, they also give you plenty of chances to ruin your teeth. From hard snacks that chip your teeth to softer sweets that lead to cavities, your teeth may face a variety of foods that could leave them a little worse for wear.
Rather than eat anything and everything and hope for the best, you can make smart choices about what foods you indulge in during the holidays. The following swaps are a great place to start if you want to protect your teeth.
1. Choose Water Over Soda
To resist cavities and plaque, the human mouth needs a resting pH level of 7.1. If you have the occasional cavity or two, you could have a resting pH level between 5 and 6.
However, soda contains citric acid, which has a pH level of 2.2. This acid level is strong enough to erode and dissolve the enamel on your teeth.
Water, in contrast, has a pH level of 7, making it the perfect stabiliser for your mouth. When you drink water with every meal, you not only rinse away cavity-causing food particles, but you also restore your mouth's pH balance for healthier, stronger teeth.
2. Opt for Slivered Nuts Over Chips
Before your Christmas dinner or your New Year's Eve party, your hosts may serve chips, popcorn or nuts as a snack. These tasty snacks whet your appetite so you can anticipate the delicious meal still ahead.
But chips and popcorn both contain high amounts of starch and carbohydrates. As you chew, the snacks stick to your teeth and lodge in those awkward spaces between your teeth. The bacteria in your mouth then break down these embedded foods and produce acid, which in turn erodes your enamel.
Almonds, cashews and walnuts, in contrast, contain high amounts of fibre, which stimulates saliva production. The saliva rinses away excess food particles, balances your pH levels and even re-mineralises your enamel. Furthermore, nuts provide good amounts of calcium, vitamin D, iron, magnesium and zinc, and all of these nutrients play a key role in maintaining oral health.
Just be sure to shell and chop the nuts before you eat them. If you use your teeth to break through those tough shells, you may crack your teeth rather than the nuts.
3. Go for Turkey Over Honeyed Ham
Ham and turkey have remained two of the most traditional Christmas centrepieces for hundreds of years. And naturally, one or both of these symbols may appear at your next event.
Both ham and turkey offer a good amount of protein, and protein, in turn, helps build connective tissue. As a result, your gums will appreciate a moderate serving of either food.
But before you reach for that slice of ham, don't forget that some hams come with sugary glazes and honey to bring out their natural juices and flavours. These extra sugars wreak havoc on your teeth, increasing your risk for cavities.
And before you spoon that extra cranberry sauce on your turkey, don't forget that cranberry sauce contains high amounts of sugar and citric acid that could contribute to tooth decay.
So if you want to protect your teeth, opt for the turkey, but hold the cranberry sauce.
Don't Forget to Schedule a Check-Up After the Holidays
Even if you make these healthier food swaps over the holidays, don't forget to set up an appointment with your dentist. Your dentist can thoroughly clean your teeth and remove any stains left over from the holidays, as well as recommend additional treatments to ensure your smile looks beautiful and stays healthy.