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|Mary Richwine Evans
American Capital Corporation
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Stop Holiday Treats from Playing Tricks on Your Teeth
The holidays are approaching quickly. And that means you'll soon find yourself in a season of sugar and sweets that extends from Halloween night to New Year's Day. While many people are conscious of the toll that holiday food can take on their weight–and their waistlines–many people forget that the holiday season can be just as hard on their teeth.
The reason for the extra wear on your teeth is actually pretty simple. Your teeth and gums are covered with a sticky film called plaque. Most of us have heard of plaque, but we may not know how it leads to tooth decay and cavities. Essentially, when the plaque on your teeth comes in contact with sugar or starch, it begins to produce acid... and that acid eats away at your tooth enamel. With that in mind, it's easy to see how the constant snacking and sugary treats of the holiday season can wreak havoc on your teeth.
To help make sure your teeth stay healthy this holiday season, follow these tips from the American Dental Association (ADA).
Avoid sticky situations. Sticky treats–such as gummy candies, hard candies, and even the sweets in fruit cakes–don't wash off your teeth as easily as other sweets, like chocolate. As a result, the stickier treats sit on your teeth longer, slowly eating away at your teeth minute by minute.
Eat dessert with your meal. While you're chewing your meal, your mouth produces additional saliva. That saliva not only helps break down the food for your stomach, but it also helps neutralize the acid produced by plaque and it helps rinse those sweets off your teeth.
Don't snack between meals. Sugar causes your mouth to produce acid. But so does starch. That means, in addition to candy and cookies, you can add things like bread, crackers, and even cereal to the list of snacks that can harm your teeth. Now add to that the fact that your mouth continues to produce acid up to 20 minutes after you eat. That means, if you snack between meals, your mouth may be producing acid nearly all day long. So, if you can, cut down on the between-meal snacks. If you're hungry and absolutely need something to eat, choose a healthy alternative like vegetables, fruit, cheese, and even yogurt to help minimize the acid production.
Chew gum. Chewing gum is a lot like chewing food... your mouth can't help but produce a lot of additional saliva. And as you know from the tips above, saliva helps combat acid and helps rinse your teeth. So, after a meal or a snack, toss a piece of sugar-free gum in your mouth and help fight tooth decay with each chomp.
Drink plenty of water. Like saliva, water helps rinse your teeth clean. Better still, water that's fortified with fluoride helps give your teeth an extra little boost of healthy goodness. So make sure you drink plenty of water during the holiday season. And, if you purchase bottled water, check the label to see if the contents include a dose of fluoride.
Brush-a-brush. Remember to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once a day. For an animated look at how to best brush and floss your teeth, watch the ADA's animated tips for brushing and flossing.
Finally, remember to visit your dentist regularly and make sure to mention any issues or concerns you have. By following these simple tips, you can help ensure that your teeth stay healthy while you enjoy the holiday season.
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