Teeth Can Suffer From Holiday Stress, Too!

holiday stress.

Once again, it’s that time of year when the holiday spirit is in the air: the time when you start hearing those old songs and seeing those pretty lights (not to mention the shopping crowds and the bad weather.) But for lots of us, along with all the good cheer comes a measure of holiday-induced stress. In all the hustle and bustle of the season, could your teeth be suffering from holiday stress too?

We’re not just talking about what may happen when you bite down on an uncooked kernel in a popcorn ball, or use your mouth to do what you should be doing with a nutcracker — although that certainly does occur. But for many people, the holidays are a time when we’re eating lots of sugary snacks and rushing around without really taking care of ourselves. In fact, people in recent surveys have said they expect to gain an average of about five pounds during the season (although their actual weight gain is probably less.)

Still, that’s a lot of extra calories — and many come from the sugar in holiday treats. Aside from the added weight (which may be hard to take off), this can create a host of dental problems, including one very common — and preventable one — tooth decay. Here are a few friendly reminders about how you can prevent your teeth from “stressing out.”

If you’re going to indulge in some sweet treats, wait until after a meal — but resist between-meal snacks, and don’t feed your sweet tooth right before bed. Why? It’s all because of your saliva! Saliva is the body’s natural way of neutralizing acids in the mouth that promote tooth decay — but it takes about an hour to work. If you’re constantly putting sugars in your mouth, your saliva has no time to do its job.

What if you brush your teeth right afterward? You might think this would be effective, but research shows otherwise. Sugar creates acid, and acid softens tooth enamel, which helps protect your teeth from decay. After acid attack, enamel can take 30-60 minutes to re-harden. If you frequently brush while the enamel is soft (more than twice per day), you might actually begin brushing enamel away. So too-frequent brushing may do more harm than good.

What’s the good news? Fluoride toothpaste, used properly, is effective at preventing cavities. Calcium, which is often added to beverages as a nutritional supplement, may also help protect tooth enamel. And — perhaps surprisingly — eating cheese may also be beneficial, as it too can help neutralize acids in the mouth.

So pass on the candy canes, enjoy the cheese plate — and have a happy holiday!

If you have questions about tooth decay or oral hygiene, please contact us today at (708) 848-2853 to make an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Tooth Decay” and “Oral Hygiene Behavior.”

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