Ahhh, the holidays. The most wonderful time of the year…unless you are a set of teeth! With all the excess candy, alcohol, general dietary changes, and socializing, the holidays can prove a challenging time to maintain good oral hygiene habits and stick to foods good for teeth. Like any other body part, your teeth need plenty of nutrients to stay healthy. So when preparing the holiday menus and shopping lists, here is a handy guide to ensure you can still enjoy yourself while giving your chompers the best chance of getting through the season without a cavity.
Top winter healthy foods for teeth
Vitamin D plays a major role in bone and tooth mineralization, which makes your teeth strong. Having appropriate levels in the blood can help to prevent teeth from cracks and fractures. It is also essential for good gut health, which starts in the mouth thanks to the bacteria and microflora present. We get Vitamin D primarily from the sun, which is often difficult to do in the winter.
You can try incorporating the foods below into your diet to balance this out and boost your dietary levels. But remember that Vitamin D in food is usually not enough or in the wrong form, so if you are deficient, you will need to take supplements.
Dairy and plant milk fortified with Vitamin D
Proteins are essential for good health and a lack can lead to abnormal mouth development, bleeding gums, and periodontal disease. This happens because protein helps repair tissue and build bone mineral density (BMD). Thankfully, it is rare for Americans to suffer such a deficiency and the holiday table is usually brimming with protein-rich foods, such as turkey! Vegetarians and vegans need to ensure that their diet includes things like legumes.
Lean Proteins such as beef, lamb, veal, pork, chicken, turkey, duck, and goose
Fish and seafood
Milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products
Nuts and seeds such as almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds
Beans, lentils, chickpeas, split peas, tofu.
Hopefully, by now, your dental care provider has drilled into you (haha) the importance of calcium-rich meals as foods good for your teeth, but just in case you haven't been listening, I'm going to do it again. Calcium rounds up the trio of essentials for proper bone density, tissue growth, and development. An imbalance of any one of these elements can mean pretty severe consequences for your teeth and gums. To boost your calcium, try to incorporate the following:
Low-fat cheese, especially cottage cheese
Yogurt (Greek is the best)
Small fish with bones (think anchovies and sardines)
Plenty of green leafy vegetables
Almonds and fortified almond milk
Swapping bad for good
What is a holiday meal without a little something sweet at the end? If you have the willpower, why not swap your apple pie for apple slices? Foods high in fiber and water help stimulate saliva production and neutralize acids, which can help prevent decay. Or boost your calcium with a cheese board for dessert.
You could even go one better and switch your glass of wine or soda for plain old fluoridated water. This will help clean your mouth of food particles and strengthen your enamel while quenching your thirst.
Foods bad for teeth
A good rule of thumb is to avoid rich food and drinks high in sugar or refined carbohydrates. These products can cause food to stick to your teeth or even get into those hard-to-reach places, increasing your likelihood of developing tooth decay and cavities.
Choose fresh foods over packaged or processed foods as often as possible, and remember, if it is healthy for your body, it will be good for your teeth.
Create good holiday habits
Diet is one thing, but there are also some holiday habits you should get into to set yourself up for the best chance of success in keeping your teeth and gums clean. A few easy-to-implement suggestions are:
Give the kids cool new toothbrushes and accessories as part of their Christmas gifts - products like TruthBrush make great stocking fillers
Bring interdental products like TePe EasyPicks with you to your Christmas party for a quick clean after your meal
Try not to overeat to help avoid reflux. The acid can get into the mouth and cause damage to your tooth enamel.
Don't worry if you fall off the wagon!
While you should try to do whatever you can over the holidays to ensure good oral care and prevent tooth decay, don't be disheartened if you fall off the wagon once or twice. Follow the American Dental Association ADA's recommendations for nutritional guidance, or check out our foods good for teeth infographic to help you stay on track as much as you can. This way, you should be able to chew your holiday favorites with your very own set of strong teeth for many years to come!