Dr. Tony Cigno – Dentist in Milwaukee – Holiday Dental Care Tip 1
This holiday season our Milwaukee Dentist Dr. Tony Cigno is doing a short miniseries on dental care considerations for keeping teeth healthy during this special time.
One thing there is no shortage of during the holiday is sugary treats. Cookies, cakes, fudge, jams and jellies, homemade candies, pies, and more… every type of sweet imaginable seems to always be around home and work.
While this is for sure one of the joys of the holidays, unfortunately, it can be risky for your teeth!
How sugar damages your teeth:
It’s not the sugar itself that is harmful to teeth. Rather, it’s what happens after you eat the sugar.
Generally, the mouth has tons of bacteria lurking inside. Yet, most bacteria is harmless and some even prevent “bad” bacteria from causing illness. On the other hand, when certain bacteria meet up with sugar, it’s bad news. An acid is created that destroys the enamel of teeth.
When this outer, protective, layer of the tooth is damaged, it makes cavities much more likely. A cavity is a hole in the tooth created by a bacterial infection that occurs because of the excess acid—often due to sugar. Left untreated, a cavity can cause a more serious infection in the gum or tooth root, leading to gum disease or tooth loss.
Aside from eliminating sugar completely, are there things you can do to lower the risk of sugar-related dental issues?
Yes! There are many things you can do!
Limit the number of times your teeth are exposed to sugar
Sugar now and then isn’t going to be a problem. It’s important to realize that acid in the mouth is increased for 20 minutes after sugar consumption. Therefore, if you are constantly grazing on sweets throughout the day (which is liable to happen over the holidays), then your risk is going to be significantly increased.
Drink sugary drinks such as juices and colas through a straw
Drinking through a straw sends the liquid more directly through your mouth and down the throat—limiting exposure of the sugar to the teeth.
Finish your meals with something high in calcium
Eating foods high in calcium such as cheese, nuts, or milk at the end of the meal coats the teeth with calcium and phosphorous. Both of which help to re-mineralize the teeth, protecting the enamel.
After eating sweets, chew sugar-free gum with xylitol
Chewing sugar-free gum after eating something sweet, helps to dislodge any pieces or particles of the treat that get stuck in the teeth. Additionally, chewing gum promotes saliva production. Saliva is one of your mouth’s natural defense mechanisms against tooth decay.
Choose dark chocolate
Many recent studies have shown that dark chocolate may not only be not harmful, but may help to protect the teeth. The idea is that compounds in the cocoa bean husk have an antibacterial effect and may fight bacteria on the teeth. There is also a “good acid” in dark chocolate that helps to defeat the bad bacteria in your mouth that eventually can cause plaque and disease.
Of course, part of the fun of the holiday season is indulging in those things that make you happy. For many, that includes some sweet treats you may not let yourself have most other times of the year. If that’s you, don’t beat yourself up. So long as you practice a little moderation, your teeth should be no worse for the wear come the new year, so long as you return to your usual good dental care habits.