Some people associate the holiday season with gifts. Others (such as myself) associate the most wonderful time of year with some of the most delicious foods to ever bless their palate. Sure, quality time with family is lovely and all, but the second I spot a plate of cookies shaped like snowmen or a handful of miniature marshmallows floating in a warm mug of hot chocolate, dessert is all I’m thinking about — to my dentist's dismay, I’m sure. I mean, do you know how to take care of your teeth during the holidays? Because seasonal festivities are always loaded with fancy cocktails and sugary treats, and while you should absolutely indulge to your heart's content, you don’t exactly want your dentist giving you the third degree come January.
In terms of dental hygiene, 2018 was the year of disappointing revelations for the millennial generation. Just in case you need a refresh, back in February, the oral care start-up company, Hello Products, found that a cringeworthy 30 percent of 2,000 survey participants only brush their teeth once a day. Listen, guys: If you aren't brushing your teeth twice a day, every day, when you aren't consuming all the candy canes, gingerbread men, hot chocolate, and pumpkin pie the holiday season has to offer, I can't even imagine the state of your dental health come New Year's Eve.
For the record, I am in no way trying to shame you or guilt you for indulging in all the seasonal sweets because, trust me, I’m right there with you. All I’m trying to say is, if you know going into the holidays that you’re going to be snacking on things that easily stick to your teeth and the roof of your mouth (hello, peppermint bark), and sipping on acidic drinks like wine that can weaken your tooth enamel (aka the hard outer layer of your pearly whites), then it really isn't a bad idea to put some extra effort into your dental health. Think of it this way: You'd probably make adjustments by adding serums and balms to your beauty routine in order to keep your skin feeling healthy throughout the dry winter conditions, right? So why not tackle your oral routine in the same way?
Now, I’m sure you think you don’t need someone to tell you how to brush your teeth, but a 2014 survey from Delta Dental, which found that the average American doesn't spend enough time maintaining their dental health, seems to argue otherwise, so in case you need a refresher, I reached out to Kareen Wilson, a registered dental hygienist working as a manager and patient therapist at Contemporary General Dentistry in Connecticut, to reiterate the basics.
Holiday circumstances aside, Wilson tells Elite Daily that the ideal, everyday dental health routine should include a thorough floss, brushing with a toothpaste strong enough to clean below the gumline, and rinsing with a mouthwash. However, when you do factor holiday foods and drinks into the equation, Wilson says she likes to remind patients that “what they eat is just as important for their gumline" as their actual oral routine.
Keep in mind, however, that "everything in moderation" is still the golden rule. You should never feel like you can’t indulge over the holiday season (unless, of course, you're dealing with a relevant medical issue), but from a dental hygiene standpoint, there are certain sweets to watch out for, if for no other reason than the sake of your teeth. For example, Los Angeles-based celebrity dentist, Dr. Jon Marashi, tells Elite Daily over email that the high sugar content in some of your fave grazing options — like popcorn, milk chocolate, dried fruit, etc. — could potentially lead to tooth decay and cavities. Candy canes and other hard candies can also be a bit harsh on your teeth, Marashi explains, as “they are full of sugar and their hard exterior can lead to cracked and chipped teeth.”
As for your favorite festive beverages, Marashi says, use your best judgment. For example, you want to be careful of holiday drinks that contain hard liquors like whiskey and bourbon, he explains, as sipping on these “can dry out your mouth” and “create a breeding ground for bacteria.” Decadent eggnogs are also ones to watch, as they can be packed with sugar, alcohol, and dairy — a risky combination that, if not consumed in moderation, could lead to bacteria growth, cavities, and tooth decay, says the dentist. "What is important to understand is that consuming one beverage is not going to ruin your mouth," Marashi tells Elite Daily. "It is always about excessive consumption and lack of good oral hygiene."
OK, so now that Marashi’s broken down what goodies to be mindful of amidst all of your celebratory feasts, let’s talk about a few extra steps you can tack onto brushing, flossing, and rinsing to ensure your dental health is in tip-top shape for the 2018 holiday season, shall we? First of all, if you even own a bottle of mouthwash, brava, because for the longest time, I just assumed that was a dad thing, because my dad was the only person I knew to actually use it on a daily basis. That being said, if you don’t own a powerful rinse aside from your tap, Sarah Jebreil, DDS AAACD, a dentist practicing in Newport Beach, California, tells Elite Daily she recommends investing in a fluoride wash, especially around the holidays, as she says it’s excellent for taking care of any lingering, sugary carb particles.
If you really want to commit to breezing through the holidays with the pearliest, healthiest whites, Dr. Jason Popper of Popper Dental in New York suggests treating your teeth to a Philips Sonicare Diamond Deep Clean Toothbrush (or any other travel-friendly electric toothbrush), tossing travel-size toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash in your bag, and tending to your dental health whenever necessary. “Start by flossing your teeth, brushing twice a day with a whitening toothpaste, and using a whitening mouthwash,” Popper tells Elite Daily. And as for splurging on an electric toothbrush, Dr. Popper points out that the Philips Sonicare one “even comes with a travel case and USB plug, so there's no excuse.”
Honestly, there really isn't an excuse to skimp on your dental health any other time of the year, either, but I digress. Brush, floss, rinse, friends. During the holidays, and beyond.