Watching what you eat and drink is not only good advice for your waistline, but for your teeth too. The very same foods that pile on the fat also feed cavity-causing bacteria and weaken tooth enamel.
It should be no surprise that pies, soda pop, candy canes and popcorn, especially the flavored versions, are all naughty, but there are some holiday foods that pack surprises, both good and bad.
Here’s our list of naughty and nice holiday foods and beverages:
Eggnog is naughty, loaded with sugar that coats the teeth. With each gulp of this yummy elixir, cavity-causing bacteria get a feast to fuel their destructive activity. Best advice is to drink water to wash away the sugar.
Turkey is really nice to teeth. Not only is turkey a lean heart healthy protein, it contains phosphorus, which gives and extra boost in power to calcium and vitamin D, the building blocks of strong bones and teeth.
Cranberry sauce is very naughty. Researchers at the University of Rochester found that cranberry juice fights cavity-causing bacteria, but cranberry sauce does the polar opposite. Cranberry sauce is loaded with cups of sugar.
Nuts are nice. Raw cashews, almonds, peanuts, walnuts, pecans contain vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium, and zinc, all good for teeth. Remember human teeth are not nutcrackers, and that attempting to open a nutshell with teeth runs a very serious risk of breaking, cracking, or chipping, and paying a huge dental emergency bill. That would be Ho-Ho- Horrible.
Wine, whatever the color, is naughty in one way or another. Because tooth enamel is an imperfect surface with microscopic cracks, the pigmentation in red wine settles into those cracks and also into plaque giving teeth a pinkish hue. While white wine does not stain, the drink’s high acid content will soften enamel, degrading the tooth’s natural defenses.
Hot drinks like coco, mulled wine and coffee are especially naughty. Because these beverages must be served very hot, the rapid change in temperature can cause microscopic cracks in enamel.
Cheese is a triple nice treat. First cheese supports the production of alkaline saliva, which reduces enamel-weakening acidity. Second, in a U.S. Academy of General Dentistry study, researchers found that cheese contains chemical compounds that form a protective barrier against bacteria on teeth. And lastly cheese contains calcium, which is great for both bones and teeth.
Oven roasted vegetables are very naughty. Researchers from the University of Dundee, Scotland, found that oven roasting nutrient-packed vegetables actually increased the acidity level to that found in diet soda. Steaming vegetables is the much better alternative.
Gingerbread cookies are mostly nice. Most cookie recipes call for about two cups of sugar. The amount of sugar in gingerbread cookie recipes is far less and can be further reduced to taste because of the bold flavors of ginger, cinnamon, cloves and allspice.
Stuffing and dressing are naughty. No traditional Thanksgiving dinner is complete without them, but these starchy dishes present two problems. First, cavity-causing bacteria feed off the starch, as it is really a form of sugar. Second, these foods are sticky, adhering to teeth and gums, right where the bacteria want it. Stuffing or dressing containing dried fruit are worse because they ramp up the sugar content. Mashed potatoes present the same sticky challenges.
Brussels sprouts, collard greens, and kale are really nice. Leafy green vegetables in general are great because they contain vitamin A, vitamin C, beta-carotene, phosphorus, calcium and magnesium. Brussels sprouts and kale are especially rich in vitamin C and phosphorus, which supports the body and teeth in absorbing calcium.
Champagne, cava, prosecco are all sadly very naughty. They all contain high levels of acid, which will erode enamel, the teeth’s first line of defense, while at the same time feeding bacteria with sugar.
Sweet potatoes are nice. This tropical tuber packs a strong dose of vitamin A, which is very important for preventing dry mouth and supports healing inside the mouth. The vitamin is also vital in maintaining the protein keratin, an agent that promotes formation of tooth enamel.
Caramel wherever it is found is naughty. In coffee, on popcorn, in cookies, in colorful foil wrapping, it matters not where, it is bad for teeth. Caramel is burnt sugar, but instead of dissolving quickly and washing away in saliva, it sticks to gums and teeth and stays stuck for a long time, providing an all-you-can-eat sugar buffet for cavity-causing bacteria. It can also dislodge crowns and other dental work.
Jefferson Dental Care wishes you and your loved ones a happy and safe holiday season. Remember that your dental benefits expire at the end of the year. While it may be tempting to put off your annual exam and x-rays, if you feel something is not a normal sensation or experience unusual pain make your appointment to see us right away. Dental pain is a sure way to crush good cheer.
We offer affordable dentistry with convenient hours at 52+ dental office locations in Dallas, Houston, Richardson, Arlington, Plano, Fort Worth, Grand Prairie, Irving, Aldine, Katy, Oak Cliff, Garland, Lewisville and more! Jefferson Dental accepts Medicaid, most dental insurance, and offers patients with no insurance deep discounts on treatment through our Dental Savings Plan.