OK, here I am – a dentist – telling you it’s ok to eat cake. And not just cake, but all your favorite seasonal sweets.
With the holidays in full swing, we’re all going to get our fair share of cakes and sweets. And we’ve all heard since we were just wee little toddlers that sugar is bad for our teeth, so why would I be telling you that it’s totally fine for you to chow down on all those delectable holiday treats?
Because, when we’re talking about cavities, it’s not the amount of sugar that you eat, it’s how long the sugar stays on your teeth.
Wait, but why?
It all comes down to sugars – sugars are what feed the bacteria in the plaque that forms on your teeth, and the bacteria then produces acid which eats away at your teeth. The end result? Cavities.
But if the bacteria doesn’t have any sugars to eat, then it won’t produce any cavity-causing bacteria. That’s why the amount of time the sugar remains on your teeth is so important – the less time sugars remains on your teeth, the less your mouth’s plaque bacteria have to feed on, and – ultimately – the less likely you are to get a cavity on those teeth.
That’s something to keep in mind when you’re at the grocery store or standing in front a table of piled high with sweet holiday goodies. Treats with sticky candy or sugary syrup are are much worse for your teeth than those with crumbly chocolate or bread because the sticky stuff will hang around longer on your teeth before it’s washed away by water or saliva.
So what should I do?
Eat your favorite holiday treats…but also think about how much of them you eat, when you eat them, and what you do after you’re finished eating.
Choose (or make) your treats wisely
The power is in your hands. But seriously, it is. Now that you know the science behind how plaque bacteria reacts to different kinds of sugary foods, you can use that knowledge to choose snacks that are healthier for your teeth. And if you’re a chef, you can look into low-sugar or sugar-free recipes instead.
Avoid all-day snacking
This one sounds easy, but if you’ve got mouthwatering treats within easy reach, it can be a real test of willpower. So when the call of your sweet tooth becomes too strong to resist, just go for it – get your fill of sugary goodness in one sitting instead of spending the entire day nibbling on sugary snacks or sipping on sweet drinks. This minimizes the time the acid is active in your mouth.
Rinse your mouth
If you absolutely can’t resist longer snacking sessions, just rinsing with water every now and then can dilute a lot of the sugars and wash them away. And hey, if nothing else, it’s also a good reminder for you to take a break from the eggnog and peppermint mochas and just get back to some good ol’ refreshing water.
It’s all about balance
There you have it. With a bit of extra care, you genuinely can eat all your beloved holiday treats while staying free of cavities and (mostly) free of guilt. So go ahead, enjoy your holidays and indulge in your favorite festive delights – just remember to take care of your teeth too!
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Happy eating and happy holidays!