It seems like every holiday is filled with sweet treats — Halloween candy, Christmas cookies, Valentine’s Day sweethearts, Easter eggs — you get the idea. While it’s nice to indulge in a chocolate bar or some gummy worms every now and then, the continued consumption of sugary sweets can adversely affect your body and oral health.
How Sugar Affects Your Teeth and What You Can Do
Sugar is an energy source for the bacteria that cause plaque on your teeth. More sugar in your mouth means more bacteria multiplying and sticking to your pearly whites. The thicker the bacteria, the extra “sticky” it becomes and the more bacteria will continue to adhere to your teeth as plaque.
So, what can be done about the holiday sweets conundrum? Here are some options:
1. Don’t accept any sweets, or at least, minimize the quantity of the sweets you receive. An extreme but great option, in theory. This one can be difficult to implement when there are little trick-or-treaters in the house.
2. Donate your sweets. Some dentists, schools and other organizations are happy to take treats off your hands in exchange for a healthier prize. The donated treats are often recycled within the community, so you can feel good about giving them away. This is also a great way to teach your kids about sharing and donating. It’s a win-win!
3. Avoid the treats that remain in your mouth for extended periods of time. Hard candies, such as Jolly Ranchers, butterscotch, Ring Pops and Lifesavers, can be sucked on for long periods of time, which gives bacteria more time to consume the high quantities of sugar.
4. Brush your teeth after eating sweets. Give yourself 20 to 30 minutes before brushing to allow your saliva to neutralize more of the acid produced by the bacteria. If you brush too quickly after eating sweet or acidic foods, you can damage your enamel by actually brushing acid into your teeth, rather than removing it. Your saliva has a pH that is designed to neutralize acids; be sure to give it time to do its job before cleaning your mouth.
5. Cover your treats. A study conducted by Google, Inc., as reported by TIME, sought to decrease the consumption of candy (specifically M&M’s) by employees. The results found that when the candies were placed in opaque, covered containers throughout the office, overall consumption of the sweets decreased. In contrast, when nuts and dried fruits were placed in clear glass bowls throughout the office, consumption of these healthy snacks increased. The moral: Covering your candy will make you less likely to indulge in it because it is “out of sight, out of mind.”
These are just a few ideas to help you beat the overload of holiday sweets. If you are concerned about how your sugar intake is affecting your oral health, be sure to talk to your dentist about some options available to you. There is always a way to find a balance between continuing to enjoy some sweets while maintaining a healthy mouth. As a wise man once said, “Excess within control.”
What are your thoughts? Do you have any tooth-saving tricks when it comes to sweet treats?