Halloween candy, Thanksgiving pies, Christmas cookies…
The holidays can be a time when many people find themselves with unexpected dental problems because of all the extra sugar we tend to eat around this time of year. So how can you enjoy the holidays and avoid dental issues? The most important thing is to keep up with your regular dental check-ups and cleanings so that problems can be detected earlier, while they are still easy to fix.
Here are some guidelines to help reduce your risk of decay
- Don’t drink a lot of sugary drinks. These include sodas, sweet tea, sports drinks, juices, energy drinks, and even coffee with sugar. If you are having a sweet drink, drink it as quickly as possible, and preferably through a straw, to minimize the amount of contact it has with your teeth.
- No hard candies, mints, or chewing gum that is not sugar free. Things such as lollipops that are eaten slowly are releasing constant sugar, which is food to the bacteria that causes cavities.
- Avoid sticky candies which are more likely to stick to your teeth and stay there for longer periods of time. They won’t be rinsed away as easily as other, non-sticky, candies and foods would be.
- Brush and floss before you go to bed every night. Don’t eat or drink anything besides water between the time you brush and floss your teeth and the time you go to bed. When you sleep, the amount of saliva produced by your body decreases. Saliva protects your teeth from the cavity-causing bacteria so when there is less of it, your teeth are more susceptible to decay!
- Brush at least twice a day for at least two minutes each… use a timer, 2 minutes is longer than you think!
- Floss at least once every day and make sure to use proper technique
- Stop smoking… not only does it predispose you to oral cancer but it can also increase your risk for cavities and gum disease! Get help quitting
One of the most common misconceptions is that if you don’t have any dental pain, there are no problems. The majority of cavities go undetected by the patient. When a cavity becomes painful, that is a sign that the cavity has grown so large it has made it’s way all the way to the nerve. Once this happens, you no longer only need a filling, you will actually need a root canal and crown or extraction of the tooth to relieve the pain. Sometimes a cavity can even invade the nerve and be totally painless… in this case the patient typically doesn’t know anything is wrong until the cavity gets so large it causes the tooth to break!