Teeth and sugary holiday treats

Teeth & Sugary Holiday Treats

‘Tis the season of candy canes, gingerbread men, and champagne toasts. All these sugary treats can take a toll on your teeth over the course of the holidays. We want you to enjoy all of your celebrations and live your best life, but we also want to take a moment to fill you in on why all those sweets can cause cavities, and give you a few tips for how to prevent them.

Your mouth is naturally full of bacteria, some helpful and some harmful. Harmful, cavity-causing bacteria feed specifically on sugar and carbohydrates. Studies have confirmed the direct relation between intake of dietary sugars and dental caries across the lifespan. This is because as the bacteria digest the sugar it needs to survive, it creates a very potent acid that can wear away your tooth enamel over time. The effect of eating something sugary is immediate, with an increase in damaging acid seen in just five minutes. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), the acid produced by the bacteria do the most damage to your teeth within 20 minutes of eating; this is what is known as an “acid attack.” That means, the more sugary foods you eat throughout the day, the more your teeth are exposed to decay-causing acids. You can minimize the damage done by:

  • Eating sweet treats fairly quickly, instead of over a long period of time
  • Drinking, rather than sipping, sweetened or acidic beverages
  • Brushing or rinsing your teeth right away after a sweet treat to help minimize how long the sugars and resulting acids are allowed to linger in your mouth
  • Keeping the level of plaque in your mouth to a minimum. The more cavity-causing bacteria hiding in the plaque, the more acid will be released after eating a sugary treat
  • Considering less sugary alternatives when possible
  • Looking for less-sticky treats that will easily rinse away from your teeth with saliva if you aren’t able to brush or rinse your teeth after eating them
  • Using a toothpaste that contains fluoride to help remineralize any areas affected by acid

*Sources: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Colgate Professional, Live ScienceNational Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR).


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