Thanksgiving and your Dental Health
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s the one time of the year when I can look forward to lots of laughter, lots of fun with my extended family–and, what’s ultimately most exciting–lots of amazing food! Thanksgiving is a time when I feel like it’s okay to eat whatever I want without feeling guilty about calorie consumption. As much as the food served on Thanksgiving is yummy in the tummy, however, it also holds the potential to wreak havoc on your teeth!
Sugar + Your Teeth = Decay
Many of the things served on Thanksgiving contain a high concentration of sugar: From pies to sweet potato casseroles and other baked goods, it is important to keep your oral hygiene in check while feasting on sugary delectables, in order to prevent painful tooth decay. If decay does occur, make sure you give us a call to discuss your options before a small issue becomes a big problem!
Bright food/beverages + Your Teeth = Staining
Sugary foods can cause decay, but that is not the only edible temptation that’s after your pearly chompers! Antioxidant-rich, brightly colored fruits and vegetables–especially the coffee, tea, and red wine you may be enjoying–can cause staining. One way to prevent staining from red wine is to pair it with some cheese cubes; the cheese provides a protective barrier between your tooth enamel and the wine. Another thing to remember after drinking such beverages is to rinse out your mouth with warm water after. If staining does occur, our office also provides professional take-home whitening, and with our annual White Winter special, the entire procedure will cost you $100 less until the end of January!
It is actually a misnomer that sugar is the main cause of cavities. While it does play a huge role, the main culprit is something called Streptococcus Mutans–or S. Mutans, for short–a type of bacteria that already lives in your mouth. How they work is like this: You eat a sugary or carbohydrate-rich snack, such as pie, white crackers, bread, or cookies, and the sugar breaks down to form plaque on your teeth. As you go on with your day without brushing away the plaque, the S. Mutans eat it. You may be thinking, “Well great, then; problem solved,” but that is not the case. As the S. Mutans eat the plaque on your teeth, they are simultaneously sticking to your teeth, producing harmful acids that eat away at your tooth enamel, causing decay and sensitivity. Not fun! Some people naturally have less enamel on their teeth than others, which makes them predisposed to more sensitivity at the hands of these evil destroyers of dental enamel! Luckily, for people suffering from painful sensitivity due to inadequate hard enamel, our Oviedo office offers chairside veneers–the most recommended solution to this type of sensitivity.
Cranberries and Cavity protection?!
Recently, scientists discovered a compound found in cranberries and some red wines that can actually ward off the harmful devastation caused by S. Mutans! Hyun “Michel” Koo, D.D.S, Ph.D. at the University of Rochester Medical Center has been researching these compounds, which disrupt the enzymes (called glucosyltransferases), that the S. Mutans use to build glucans. Glucans are the basic precursors to plaque, which is what provides a sort of safe haven for the S. Mutans to survive and thrive. Koo says, “These molecules don’t outright kill S. Mutans. Instead, they disrupt the two most harmful actions of this pathogenic organism: Acid production and glucan production.”
Although this breakthrough proves promising, as far as scientists finding a way to isolate the compound in order to make new dental products to protect against cavities, Koo does not suggest that you go crazy on the cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving! Typically, cranberry sauce–as well as cranberry juice cocktail–contain a lot of sugar. While the compound is still present in the cranberries, the amount of sugar used to make it a Thanksgiving favorite tends to counteract the positive effects of the compound in cavity prevention.
Tips for a More Tooth-Friendly Thanksgiving
There are ways to enjoy your favorite holiday while also protecting your teeth from the potential hazards it possesses. The following are some simple tips for keeping your oral hygiene in mind in order to prevent painful and often expensive dental problems later on:
1.) Avoid grazing:
The way that S. Mutans produce glucose is by sitting in the plaque on your teeth. At holidays like Thanksgiving, it’s very easy to “graze,” or spend most of the day just mindlessly wandering back to the hors devours table for sugar-laden snacks. When you do snack (because it is inevitable), either brush or rinse out your mouth with some warm water.
2.) Decrease the sugar:
If you’re cooking some meals or desserts this holiday season, it is possible to reduce the amount of sugar used in the most popular, albeit destructive, holiday dishes, without anyone even noticing! Try cutting the sugar in the cranberry sauce, for instance, in half. The same goes for the pumpkin, apple, and other fruit pies. If you feel that reducing the sugar will leave these items lacking in sweetness, honey is a fantastic all-natural sweetener that does not contain all of the harmful properties of sugar, either health or tooth-wise, and we promise that nobody will even notice a difference!
3.) Balance sugar with protein:
Let’s face the facts: We know you’re going to snack on the sugary foods. We know this because, despite working in the dental field, we will all definitely be doing the same thing. We do not promote deprivation or party-spoiling, but we do encourage you to eat the sugary stuff in conjunction with a well-balanced, protein-laden meal. This helps your teeth in a few ways: First, eating causes an increase in saliva production, which aids in washing away sticky substances to keep them from sticking to your teeth. Second, proteins, such as the turkey and ham on the dining table, helps counteract the negative effects of the sugary stuff. Third, (speaking of turkey), it is very high in calcium, which is known to help recalcify teeth.
4.) Carry a toothbrush:
If you’re traveling. Brush, but not too often, and make sure you are flossing daily!
5.) Mind acidic foods:
If you’ve eaten foods high in acid, such as citrus fruits, coffee, tea, or wine, rinse your mouth with warm water first, and wait at least 60 minutes to brush your teeth afterwards. Acidic foods and beverages make the hard enamel on your teeth resemble soft sandstone, which just gets brushed away when you brush. Basically, you are brushing away layers of protective tooth enamel when you brush your teeth directly following a meal rich in acidic foods!
6.) Make sure you are scheduling your six-month checkups regularly at Oviedo Premier Dental in order to ensure that any small dental issues are caught early, before they become huge problems!
source: “Thanksgiving And Your Dental Health.” oviedopremierdental.com Oviedo Premier Dental, Web. Nov. 22nd, 2017.
For more articles on dental health, see our main blog page.