Tooth problems during the holidays
The subject of tooth problems during the holiday season seems to come up every year, and I address this issue in the office with my patients.
Whenever I respond to a question, it is vital for me to clarify the scope of the problem.
Christmas and New Year’s coincide with the influx of cold weather. Cold weather effects are enough by themselves to cause my phone to ring off the hook. However, I hope to address that unique problem in another column.
Today, I want to focus on the overuse, abuse, and neglect
that our teeth get this time of the year.
I want to offer a few tips to reduce the need for a call to me in the short run and help keep your mouth healthy in the long term.
I want to teach you how to avoid tooth problems during the holiday season.
The December sugar rush
Sugar abounds in December. The closer we get to Christmas, the more the sugary treats flood into our lives.
Don’t worry; I am not going to preach avoidance of those treats.
Cookies, candies and special baked goods are all part of the festive atmosphere that is so much fun. Having said that, what can we do to limit the damage that these foods cause?
Sugar is the lifeline for cavity-causing bacteria.
Remember that sugar is the lifeline of the bacteria that attach to our teeth and gums. These bacteria congregate where sugar collects on the teeth and produce acid and other damaging waste products.
These chemicals eat away at our teeth and cause cavities.
Control your exposure
One key to minimizing the adverse effects of sugar is to control how much exposure we have to it. The frequency of exposure will determine how detrimental our sugar indulgences are for us.
Sitting in the office all day long and munching on a can of cookies and treats is the worst thing that you can do. It is far better to eat all that you want in a shorter interval than to graze this food all day long. The bugs in your mouth have a field day with this as they’re partaking of a non-stop buffet of sugar.
Nuts. The healthy holiday snack alternative!
But you will tell me that part of the fun is eating all day long. Trust me; I get it. I want to suggest that you break up the sugar-gorging with other foods.
Nuts abound this time of year. Every store that I walk into has a display of “holiday nuts.” It would be a great idea to bring these into work. You can either bring them for your stash or contribute to the greater good.
Walnuts are a great resource to keep cholesterol in check and act as an anti-inflammatory component benefiting our entire body. They are also shown to help with moods. So many people have stress and family issues around the holidays that any help that we can find is a plus.
Let’s not forget chestnuts. Remember Nat King Cole’s ‘The Christmas Song’! Chestnuts are lower in calories when compared to other nuts, an excellent source of fiber for your diet and rich in Vitamin C. Their hypoglycemic index is low, which makes them perfect for people who struggle to maintain proper blood sugar levels.
Macadamia nuts and Pecans
What about nuts that are high in calories, like macadamia nuts and pecans?
According to Michael Greger, M.D., one of the leading nutrition physicians today, nuts, in general, do not cause weight gain. This is true even though they are composed of fats and therefore loaded with calories.
He states that
“ Part of the trick seemed to be that nuts boost fat burning within the body. It could have something to do with the amino acid arginine or the phytonutrients found in nuts…”
Nuts and seeds are linked to lower heart disease and longer life. Personally, I snack on nuts and seeds every day. My patients know that I do not have a weight issue.
How to offset all that sugar!
Lastly, what can we do to help mitigate some of our overeating and indulgences? You all know where I am going with this. Let’s be extra diligent in our oral care at home.
Spend more time brushing, flossing, or using a water-jet device. In fact, this would be a great time to buy an electric toothbrush for you and the family.
Oral hygiene can fix and erase some bad activities during the day and not give bacteria a foothold in our mouths.
Don’t let a tooth issue ruin your fun in the upcoming days.
Now that you know how to avoid tooth problems during the holiday season practice proper prevention techniques to control the problems.
If you develop a problem, we are working and not taking any time off. Please call us at 440-892-1810 so that I make sure that
you enjoy every moment of the season.
Jeffrey Gross, DDS, FAGD, is an Ohio-licensed general dentist and is on the staff of Case Western Reserve School of Dental Medicine.