For many people, food is the most anticipated part of the holiday season. Family meals, baked goods, and holiday candy mean there is usually something good to eat. But in the midst of the season, it’s easy to temporarily forget about making healthy choices when it comes to your teeth.
Many foods on the traditional holiday menu contain ingredients that are harmful to teeth. They can cause a buildup of plaque or tooth erosion that damages protective enamel. Other holiday foods help your teeth with nutrients and few detrimental effects. To balance out your holiday eating, and find out what to do if you’ve overindulged, the following is a primer into the best and worst holiday foods.
Worst Foods for Teeth
Sugar, fat, and acid – these three ingredients are part of what makes some food taste so good, which is why we see so much of them around Christmas and Hanukkah. Unfortunately, they are also some of the worst ingredients for dental health.
Sugar creates a sticky residue that clings to teeth. When sugar is not sufficiently cleaned away, cavities result. Oily fat can also coat teeth, capturing food particles and bacteria. Fats often cause acid reflux that leaves stomach acid in your mouth. This acid, along with the acid found naturally in some foods, wears down the enamel on your teeth.
While avoiding all harmful foods during the holidays is unlikely, try eating these foods only in moderation:
- Candy – Candy canes, peppermint bark, milk chocolates, and other candy are packed with sugar. Hard candies are particularly damaging since sucking on them prolongs their contact with your teeth.
- Desserts – Like candies, desserts often come with a high sugar content and usually contain fat as well.
- Wine – In addition to being acidic, red wine is known to discolor your teeth with its harsh pigments.
- Potatoes – Whether as latkes, roasted, or mashed, potatoes contain starch that feeds bacteria. These starches are particularly bad if you already have plaque on your teeth.
- Gravy – The fat in gravy creates an oily coating over each of your teeth that captures and holds bacteria.
Other signature holiday dishes like bread rolls, stuffing, or cranberry sauce contain starches and acids that can leave lasting effects on your oral health. The best way to combat all of these damaging foods is to limit their consumption and brush and floss regularly, including after eating, throughout the holiday season.
Foods to Eat for Healthy Teeth
Not all holiday foods are bad. Some can actually strengthen your teeth, provided you are regularly cleaning after meals. Foods that are high in vitamins and minerals while also being lean, low in pigmentation, and non-acidic are good choices at meals. These foods include:
- Sweet Potatoes
So long as these foods are not prepared with lots of added sugar or fat, eating these is a healthy way to fill up before letting yourself indulge in treats that are not beneficial for your teeth.
If your diet during this holiday season consists of more foods high in sugars and acids and not as many foods with nutrients, it isn’t too late to fix the damage done. Brush and floss your teeth to remove plaque that built up during the season and schedule a dentist appointment early in 2021 for a professional cleaning.
Dr. Hardt can examine your teeth and take early steps to correct any damage that might have occurred over the holidays, keeping your smile healthy in the year to come. Call our office at 559-784-6523 to schedule your appointment.