‘Tis the season for candy! And wine! And all the desserts!
As we approach the busy holiday season with an over-indulging celebration in each of the three Fall months, we must be aware of the potential for damage to our teeth. There are so many delightful things in which to partake that are so bad for your oral health.
The good news is that you can indulge yourself in these sweet treats and still protect yourself. That’s the subject of this week’s blog.
Why the Holiday Season can be Bad for Your Teeth
During the holiday season, we tend to ingest greater quantities of refined sugars, alcoholic beverages, and sticky candy. We also may undergo higher levels of stress. The holiday season can definitely cause more damage to your teeth. Here are the biggest areas of risk.
Cavities are bacterial infections of the hard structures of the teeth. Bacteria in dental plaque “eat” refined carbohydrates and produce acid. This acid breaks down enamel, allowing the bacteria to penetrate into the tooth.
Acid erosion is a gradual wearing away of hard tooth structure (enamel and dentin) over time through exposure to strong acids. This problem is particularly prevalent among those who suffer from acid reflux or GERD. We can also cause acid erosion by ingesting foods and drinks that are low in pH (very acidic).
Acid erosion can completely dissolve enamel, leaving teeth that are yellow and sensitive.
Damage from Clenching and/or Grinding
Contrary to what you might think, our teeth are not supposed to grind against each other. During chewing, the food separates the teeth, so there is very little contact of enamel on enamel. When we clench and/or grind the teeth together, we create damaging friction between the teeth that causes a mechanical wearing away of the tooth structure. It can also cause you to crack your teeth.
Clenching and/or grinding, officially called bruxism, is often the result of increased stress, and it has the potential to cause extensive and expensive damage on your teeth.
How to Protect Your Teeth against Cavities
One way to prevent cavities is avoiding refined sugars. But we told you that you can indulge yourself and still protect your teeth, so forget we said that. You can protect your teeth against cavities in a couple of other ways.
First of all, you can remove dental plaque through great brushing and flossing techniques performed on a consistent basis.
You can also strengthen the enamel so that it is more resistant to the attacks of acid-producing bacteria. Applying remineralizing agents, like fluoride, to the teeth will harden and strengthen enamel and dentin. This helps them to fight the attacks of bacteria.
How to Protect Your Teeth against Acid Erosion
Similarly to fighting cavities, you can fight acid erosion by applying remineralizing agents to keep the enamel hard and strong. This will help you preserve enamel and dentin through periods of low pH in the mouth.
You can also quickly raise the pH in the mouth back to neutral after enjoying an acidic food or beverage by rinsing your mouth with plain water or chewing sugar-free gum. You do NOT want to brush your teeth immediately following an acidic food or drink because that can actually increase your risk for enamel erosion.
Wait 30 minutes and take other measures to raise the pH in your mouth before brushing your teeth.
How to Protect Your Teeth against Added Stress
Unfortunately, we cannot simply stop clenching or grinding the teeth. Most of the time, this is a subconscious habit, meaning that you have no idea you are doing it. Most people are clenching or grinding during sleep when they have no control over it.
That means that the only way to protect the teeth is to provide a barrier between them and stop the friction from occurring. If you or your dentist notice evidence that you are clenching or grinding your teeth, you should wear a protective mouthguard. The damage that can occur to enamel from clenching and grinding is irreversible. Prevention is key.
More Questions about Protecting Your Teeth?
Call Prosper Family Dentistry at 972-347-1145 today to schedule a visit with Dr. Jill, Dr. Cara, and Dr. Summer. We can answer all of your questions about your specific risk levels for dental problems. We love helping our patients protect their teeth.