4 Tips to Protect Your Holiday Smile

How to keep your pearly whites intact during sweets season.

From the WebMD Archives

You can enjoy seasonal sweets and still have a cavity-free smile to flash in festive photos. These tips will keep your teeth healthy during the holidays.

Avoid over doing it with candy. It's the most wonderful time of year for candy canes, popcorn balls, and cookies -- and this nonstop buffet of sweets can wreak havoc on your teeth, says Steven Chussid, DDS. He's an associate professor of dental medicine at Columbia University College of Dental Medicine.

Still, you don't have to skip holiday treats. "Eat a single dessert and brush your teeth afterward," Chussid says. "You'll expose your teeth to less sugar [with a single treat] than if you're constantly snacking, and that reduces the risk of tooth decay."

Snack smart. Use a nutcracker, not your teeth, to shell nuts. No nutcracker? Choose a different snack. "One poor decision can cause a lot of painful and expensive damage," Chussid says. "Is it worth it to break a tooth for a nut?"

Keep a routine. The holidays can upset your schedule, but you should still brush at least two times a day.

To keep up good habits on the go, stash a toothbrush and mini tube of toothpaste in your purse or briefcase and make time to "freshen up" after meals. If brushing your teeth isn't an option, chew sugarless gum, which boosts saliva, helps flush out food debris, and more.

Honor appointments. Skipping a dental exam could get you on the naughty list. "It's much better to catch problems now and not put them off until the new year," Chussid says.

If your 6-month checkup falls during the holidays, consider it a celebration of good oral health -- and a holiday gift to yourself.

Crunch Time

If you crack a tooth on grandma's peanut brittle, you may not be able to see your dentist. "Most dental offices are closed during the holidays," says Kimberly Harms, DDS. She's a dental consultant in Farmington, MN. If you have a dental emergency, Harms offers these tips.

Be prepared. Pack dental floss, gauze, and over-the-counter pain relievers with your toiletries to deal with minor dental problems when you travel. Take your dental benefits policy number with you.

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Know who to call. If your dental office will be closed during the holidays, ask your dentist for a referral for emergencies. Know the location of the nearest emergency dental clinic (similar to an urgent care clinic).

Don't delay treatment. Waiting until the new year to fix a broken tooth or replace a lost filling could make the problem worse. If you're traveling, call a local dental office for an appointment if you need emergency care. Harms says most dentists set aside time for emergencies even for people who aren't regular patients.

Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of "WebMD Magazine."

WebMD Magazine - Feature Reviewed by Eric Yabu, DDS on August 19, 2014

Sources

SOURCES: 

Steven Chussid, DDS, associate professor of dental medicine, Columbia University College of Dental Medicine.  

Kimberly Harms, DDS, dental consultant, Farmington, MN.

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