Surprising Oral Health Risks From Holiday Celebrations

Posted on Dec 05, 2016 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

The holiday season is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy friends, family and yummy indulgences. Rich food and alcoholic beverages are common features of these gatherings. However, you may be surprised to learn just how risky these gatherings can be when it comes to your smile. But, don’t despair. The precautions below can lower your risk for cavities, bad breath and gum disease.champagneclink

Alcoholic beverages – Alcohol (including beer, wine and liquor) has a drying effect on oral tissues. Without sufficient saliva flow, oral bacteria is not being efficiently rinsed from the mouth. The more bacteria in your mouth, the more are there to reproduce. This leads to bad breath and can progress to gingivitis (an initial stage of gum disease).
When sugary mixers are added to alcohol, you increase your potential for developing cavities and gum disease even more. And, while wine may seem a healthier choice, it’s anything but smile-friendly. Red wine is known to stain teeth. Even white wine has a tint and can contribute to discoloration.
Wine is also highly acidic. When this acid mixes with digestive acids in the mouth (naturally produced each time you eat or drink), you get a one-two punch of acid that can erode tooth enamel. As a matter of fact, this acid level is so potent it can soften enamel in a mere ten minutes after that initial sip of wine.
The good news is that you CAN minimize the risks to your smile. First, ask for a glass of water along with your cocktail and take several swallows every 10-15 minutes. To dilute the acid’s intensity, allow the water to wash over your teeth before swallowing or swish with water in the restroom between drinks.

Hors d’ouevres – Cocktail party nibbling can go on for hours as you sample rich, holiday finger foods. These are often sugary or carbohydrate-laden. As mentioned prior, every time you eat or drink, your mouth undergoes an acid attack, which lasts for 20-30 minutes. This means that an acid onslaught began as soon as you bit into that first sugar cookie and will last for as long as you continue to indulge, plus another 20 or so minutes.
To minimize the acid in your mouth, try to consume those goodies in a brief amount of time rather than over the course of the evening. Rather than selecting sweet or starchy nibbles, look for fresh fruit or veggies. An added benefit when you forgo the Yule log and pretzels is that your waistline will be better off, too!

After the party, remember that eating and drinking puts your tooth enamel at risk for 20-30 minutes after your last bite or sip. That’s why it’s best to wait at least that long before brushing. When enamel is softened, the abrasiveness of toothpaste combined with the scrubbing action of a toothbrush can wear away precious enamel. Give the acid levels time to subside before heading to the sink. Tooth enamel, once worn away, is gone for good. Do everything you can to protect it to avoid costly, time-consuming problems in the future.

As you implement simple steps of caution, enjoy the holidays! Call 828-274-9440 to learn how you can enjoy a healthy mouth, fresher breath and prevent problems from occurring in the first place.

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