Common Conditions

The One Tip You Need to Prevent Tooth Decay During the Holidays

There's no need to cut out sugar entirely to prevent tooth decay, but there is something you need to know about tooth decay in order to snack wisely to protect your teeth: It's not the amount of cavity-causing food you eat, it's how long you eat it for.

by Dr. Burhenne

The One Tip You Need to Prevent Tooth Decay During the Holidays

Here’s a quick tip as we enter the holiday season: To protect your teeth from cavities, the best holiday sweets are the ones that you eat all at once. You don’t have to give up sugar (what kind of holiday season would that be?) but there is one tip you can use to snack wisely and protect your teeth.

That tip is this: It’s less a matter of how much of a cavity-causing food you eat — what matters more is how long it takes you to eat it.

The shorter the exposure to teeth, the better.

So, ask yourself: How long will this be in my mouth?

Sucking on a candy cane is far worse than eating even several slices of apple pie. That’s because it takes hours to finish the candy cane, but a piece of pie takes minutes to polish off.

[Tweet “The less time you expose your teeth to sugar and processed treats, the better.”]

Candy canes, chewing gum, Werther’s Originals, and hard candies that you suck on are held in the mouth for a while and prolong the acid attack on your teeth.

Treats that you chew and swallow right away — like a slice of pie, cake, or cookie are the best choices to protect your teeth.

The longer you bathe your teeth in sugar, the more you feed the bacteria in your mouth, activating plaque buildup.

A Few More Tips to Protect Your Teeth

Eat holiday treats during meal time. If it’s loaded with sugar, your best bet is to eat it with a meal instead of as a stand-alone snack. The other foods and drinks from your meal help prevent sugar from sticking to your teeth.

Rinse with water. The water acts to neutralize the acids in your mouth after indulging in the sweet. I love to have a glass of Pellegrino in hand at holiday parties, which is a slightly alkaline water (pH of 7.5) that is a fantastic acid neutralizer (and tastes delicious).

Don’t brush for at least 30 minutes. Acids in the mouth from eating sugary or processed snacks leave your teeth vulnerable. If your teeth have been exposed to acid, the very top layer becomes soft, which can be scrubbed away by a toothbrush. Give it 30 minutes and it will re-harden and become safe to brush again.

Scramble a few eggs before you leave the house. Don’t go to a holiday party on an empty stomach. It’s just way too hard to resist all the sweet treats!

My Favorite Holiday Party Snacks

Cheese, which acts to neutralize acid in the mouth and naturally protects teeth from decay.

Pellegrino or other mineral water. Water that is neutral or alkaline in pH can offset an acidic meal or treat.

Almond butter dark chocolate truffles. I make this recipe at home during the holidays and sweeten the truffles with raw honey or coconut sugar. They’re my favorite and so easy to make!

Flourless crackers. My favorite are Organic Mary’s Gone Crackers or anything with lots of seeds and no flour. Stay away from saltine crackers, which are worse than candy for causing tooth decay.

Dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao content, which, believe it or not, is proven to reduce tooth decay and is more effective than fluoride according to some studies.

Grapes, which are high in water content, so the sweetness is tempered with water.

Apple pie consumed with a meal, a mineral water, and in just a few bites. 🙂

Mark Burhenne DDS

read next: What to Eat—And What to Avoid—to Heal Cavities Naturally

Tired of cavities?

In 3 super easy steps, I'll show you how to hardly ever get another cavity without drastically changing your diet.

Dr. Mark Burhenne DDS

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