Celebrating the holidays often means embracing some of our favorite traditions of the year. While you are gathering with loved ones and sharing memories and gifts, it’s still important to protect your teeth, especially when you or your child is undergoing orthodontic treatment.
When wearing braces, there is a list of foods and treats to avoid so as not to damage your braces’ parts. But even if you are wearing clear aligners and take them out to eat, keep in mind that your teeth need to stay healthy and strong even as you undergo orthodontic treatment. This means avoiding harmful foods and drinks that can damage teeth while using clear aligners.
How Sugar Affects Teeth
If you’ve ever gone on a sugar spree, you’ve likely noticed a sticky film coating your teeth afterward. This oral bacterial film is called plaque. You want your teeth to be healthy and strong when your orthodontic treatment, whether with braces or clear aligner therapy, is done. The last thing you want is to have to deal with tooth decay instead of enjoying your newly straightened teeth.
Holiday Treats to Avoid
It’s important to be mindful of the food you enjoy, especially sugary and acidic treats that damage your pearly whites. Keep in mind that these treats are more like rare desserts, not daily snacks that are constantly consumed.
- Sugary treats like candy canes, peppermints and peppermint sticks are basically giant pieces of sugar that can crack a filling or a weak tooth. You’ll also be feeding sugar-feasting oral bacteria that produce tooth-damaging acids, eroding vital tooth enamel. The same goes for seasonally popular caramels, toffee or nut brittle, as they’re sticky, hard and chewy, meaning that you risk loosening a dental filling or cracking a tooth.
- But what about your traditional gingerbread cookies, fudge brownies or Grandma’s lemon bars? While they aren’t hard, they’re loaded with tooth-damaging sugar. Even “healthy” fruit cakes are brimming with bacteria-feeding sugar, as are your favorite pies. Limit these as much as possible.
Do you love eggnog or hot chocolate? A holiday diet of bacteria-feeding sugary drinks can increase your risk of tooth decay. Wine is highly acidic, and soda is both sugar-laden and acidic, while holiday punch is made from sugary fruits with soda. Limit your teeth’s exposure to these beverages, and drink plenty of water to boost hydration and cavity-fighting saliva levels.
Safe Holiday Foods
- Your smile benefits from protein in turkey, ham and salmon as well as the phosphorus, potassium and other essential goodies that support healthy teeth and gums. Salmon, mackerel and tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, promoting gum health.
- Cheese promotes healthy saliva production, which supports tooth enamel, and is high in calcium while lowering acidity in the mouth. Enjoy all your favorites, including brie, Camembert, cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese with their healthy calcium and protein content.
- Vegetables are a great source of fiber that protects against cavities, thanks to their fibrous, tooth-scrubbing texture (think broccoli and celery). They promote saliva production and fortify tooth enamel. So serve up colorful veggie platters brimming with carrots, celery, radishes and root vegetables and side salads made from leafy greens, including kale, spinach, chard or collard greens.
- If you are wearing aligners, you can safely enjoy all the seasonal nuts since you take the aligners out to eat. If you are wearing braces, you’ll want to wait until after your orthodontic braces. Stick to the safe soft foods you love!
- Enjoy a vitamin-filled, festive fruit platter with sliced apples, pears, grapes and kiwis that won’t stick to your pearly whites and are actually healthy for teeth and gums. Clean your braces meticulously after eating.
Happy Holiday Smile
This holiday season, enjoy yourself while protecting your smile as it is being straightened. Even though you’re busy, brush and floss as instructed every day, no matter how tired you are. Before you know it, you’ll be done with your orthodontic treatment and have achieved the smile you have dreamed of!