Five holiday treats that are tough on teeth

December 18, 2013

By Delta Dental of Illinois

NAPERVILLE, Ill. — During the holiday season, there tends to be an overabundance of everything — especially sweet treats. While it’s impractical to suggest complete avoidance of holiday goodies, Delta Dental of Illinois encourages moderation to make sure you enjoy the gift of great oral health.

Five common treats to limit during the holidays include the following:

1. Candy canes: The problem with candy canes is the prolonged amount of time they linger as they slowly dissolve in your mouth. There’s also the temptation to chew them, which can lead to cracks or chips in your teeth. Consume them quickly and carefully to limit their negative oral health impact.

2. Holiday cookies: It’s tempting to overindulge when there’s an abundance of baked goods, especially decorated holiday cookies. But cookies are laden with sugar and can do significant damage to your teeth. Skipping cookies entirely is impractical, but try to enjoy them in moderation.

3. Holiday drinks (such as eggnog, apple cider and hot chocolate): Festive beverages offer more than warm, holiday cheer — they pack a sugar punch. For example, eggnog boasts more than 20 grams of sugar per cup, while hot cider can pack more than 65 grams of sugar when dressed up with caramel sauce and whipped cream. Stick to one small serving of your favorite drink, and wash away some of the sticky sugar residue with a glass of water.

4. Caramels: Chewy, sticky treats such as homemade caramels are particularly damaging because they are not only high in sugar, but they also spend a prolonged amount of time stuck to teeth, making them more difficult for saliva to break down. The same is true for those sparkly gumdrops on your gingerbread house. Consume these treats in moderation, and drink plenty of water with them to help minimize the stickiness.

5. Fruitcake: Even though it’s the butt of many holiday jokes, some people actually eat fruitcake. Many of us don’t need a reason to avoid it, but for those who like it, the sugary cake base and the chewy, candied fruit are reasons to skip it.

Cookies, cake, candy and sweet holiday beverages all have at least one main ingredient in common: sugar. Sugar has a negative effect on teeth because it mixes with bacteria in the sticky plaque that constantly forms on teeth, producing acid that attacks tooth enamel. The stickiness of plaque keeps this acid against the teeth, which contributes to tooth decay.

No one wants to be a holiday humbug about enjoying all the tasty treats that abound during the holidays,” said Dr. Katina Spadoni, dental director for Delta Dental of Illinois. “Try to enjoy treats in moderation, and if you find yourself overindulging, drink water or chew sugar-free gum after eating and spend some extra time flossing and brushing at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.”

When you do indulge your holiday sweet tooth, it’s best to enjoy goodies as part of, or immediately following a meal, rather than snacking on treats throughout the day.

For more tips to keep teeth healthy over the holidays, check out Delta Dental of Illinois’ newest edition of Grin! magazine at ddil.grinmag.com.

From the Dec. 18-24, 2013, issue

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