The holiday season is here, a time for friends, family, and plenty of food. While many of our favorite food choices are good for our teeth, many are not. Of course, you’d suspect that sugary treats would be included in the dental “naughty list” for holiday food – and they are. But some of the other holiday no-nos may surprise you. Here is our list of holiday foods you should enjoy in moderation:
5 Worst Foods to Eat
#1 Dried Fruit – When it comes to picking healthy snacks, many people put dried fruit at the top of the list. But dried fruits are sticky and contain significant amounts of sugar, which is a double-win for bacteria that causes tooth decay. If you find yourself eating dried fruits or trail mix often, make sure to rinse with water immediately afterward and brush and floss carefully when you have the chance.
#2 Popcorn – What’s wrong with popcorn? Well, popcorn is one of those deceptive holiday foods because it can be a good snack for your overall health (if you don’t add lots of salt or butter to it, that is). Unfortunately, popcorn is one of the worst snacks for your teeth because the parts of the kernel can easily get lodged between your teeth and gum line, allowing bacteria to build up and do its damage. Not only that, it’s not uncommon to accidentally bite down hard on an unpopped kernel and chip a tooth. Flavored types of popcorn, like caramel corn, are even worse for your teeth because the sugar-laced flavoring that tastes so good also sticks to your teeth, creating a holiday buffet for oral bacteria.
#3 Stuffing – Here’s another holiday favorite that is, surprisingly, not good for your teeth. Stuffing is high in starch, which is converted to a form of sugar as you chew it. And because it’s a soft food, stuffing collects between the hard-to-reach surfaces of your teeth and won’t budge until you brush and floss. Even worse for your teeth, some stuffing is prepared with dried fruit like cranberries or chopped apricots, which ups the level of sticky sugars in this favorite dish.
#4 Candy – The fact that candy made the dental naughty list is not shocking. But some candies are worse than others. Hard candies like peppermints don’t cling to your teeth as readily as chewy candy (unless you chew them). On the downside: Unlike candies which are chewed quickly and wash away relatively easily (like chocolates), hard candy dissolves slowly and saturates your mouth for several minutes at a time, giving bacteria more time to produce harmful acid. Candies that are chewy, sugary, and sour deliver a triple-punch of dental disasters because they carry their own payload of enamel-eroding acid along with the sugar and stickiness.
#5 Eggnog – Whether or not you add alcohol to your eggnog, you’re still bathing your teeth in sugar. A smart way to enjoy this holiday favorite is to dilute it with non-fat milk in a 1:1 ratio. Then at least your teeth are getting calcium and other minerals to counteract eggnog’s high sugar content.
5 Smarter Holiday Food Choices
Nobody wants to be a Grinch, and we’re not suggesting that you avoid your favorite holiday foods altogether. Just enjoy them in moderation, and show your teeth a little extra love. Drink plenty of water, which will help wash away the sugar, and keep up with your daily brushing and flossing.
Of course, not all favorite holiday foods are bad for your teeth. Here are a few of our guilt-free favorites:
#1 Cheese – That big, beautiful cheese tray at the holiday party is a dental delight. The calcium content of cheese can help strengthen jaw bones and teeth, and its antibacterial elements and low pH levels can help make your mouth less susceptible to bacteria and plaque.
#2 Vegetables – You probably know that vegetables are good for you in general, but the fiber in these vitamin-filled foods can act as a natural toothbrush between bites of less dentally-ideal foods.
#3 Turkey – Turkey is packed with protein and calcium making it a great treat for your teeth and bones, so dig in!
#4 Nuts – Most types contain tons of nutrients such as iron, magnesium, and calcium (which strengthen bones and teeth) and protein and fiber to combat plaque. Nuts and legumes also increase saliva flow, which washes away bacteria and keeps tartar from building up in hard-to-reach places. Enjoy them to your heart’s content, but please, don’t crack them with your teeth!
#5 Deviled Eggs – Deviled eggs have similar dental benefits as cheese, because egg yolks are an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D.
Concerned about your dental health? Make an appointment with us today!
Dr. Todd Hasty of Shadow Valley Dental Group is a premier dentist serving patients in Maumee, Ohio. At Shadow Valley Dental Group, you can expect gentle, personalized dental care and unmatched dental expertise. We provide comprehensive services including cleanings, fillings, root canals, implants, cosmetic dental services, and more!