A dentist shares his three best tips for avoiding cavities over the holidays.
Candy canes! Baked Alaska! Panettone! Bûche de Noël! Trifle! Do the fabulous holiday delights ever stop? The list of sugary indulgences that start waltzing out in the winter is so long that just thinking about them seems like it could give you a cavity. (OK, not really. Phew!)
But let’s be honest: You’re too caught up in mulling over Thanksgiving dinner details and contemplating the list of your parish’s Advent volunteer activities to be giving your dental health much thought in the merry months of November and December. But it’s important to try to remind yourself from time to time because your teeth are yours forever and ever, and that doesn’t change just because there’s a chill in the air and an enticingly seasonal dessert on the counter.
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We asked Dr. Ben Kacos, a dentist in Shreveport, Louisiana what big things dentists want their patients to keep in mind as the holiday season approaches. Here are his three pointers for dental health this time of year.
1. Don’t save your appointment for the last minute
The early bird catches the worm and the early appointment-maker catches their preferred slot with their favorite dentist. So why haven’t you booked your family’s appointments yet? (If the answer is dental anxiety, we get it, but you and the kids still have to go.)
“Our busiest time of the year is at the end of the year. It’s right before patients’ dental benefits run out,” says Dr. Kacos. And then the rush continues through January: “I believe the beginning of the year [after benefits have run out] is due to the onslaught of sugar we consume starting in October through January.” By the end of the holidays, he sees more than a few cavities brought on by those sugar plums and candy canes.
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So beat the rush! It may have already started at your dentist’s office, but you’ll do yourself no favors by delaying. Book those appointments today and get them out of the way. You may find a trip to the dentist tedious or even scary, but everybody wants a bright, healthy smile. Visiting the dentist regularly brings you closer to achieving the smile of your dreams.
2. Seriously think about your sugar intake
It’s kind of absurd how many amazing desserts and snacks come out once Halloween hits. Thanksgiving heralds even more goodies and Christmas treats have become absolutely decadent. But as much as we may want to partake of everything, we really shouldn’t.
“I always encourage patients to really be aware of the volume of sugar they are consuming during this time,” says Dr. Kacos. “Not only is it bad for our overall health but, it can lead to dental health problems as well.”
We can still get into the spirit of the season without becoming sugar hogs. Treat yourself to just a few seasonal delights and enjoy what your friends and family have made—in moderation. Try to write down what you eat each day to keep your nutrition in check, and remind yourself that standing by the crudites platter is always a good choice over the Christmas cupcake buffet.
3. Add in one more brush & floss per day
Okay, you’re human. You see a gingerbread house at your child’s school Christmas party and you want a nibble. Your co-worker kindly gave you a tin of homemade cookies and you want to graciously try one in front of her. Dentists understand that the holidays present many temptations and that a big part of the season is making and sharing homemade foods to show your love and generosity. No matter how cautious you are, you’re going to eat more sugary things this time of year. It’s just going to happen. So how do you compensate for that?
Dr. Kacos says to whip out that toothbrush a little more often these days.
“If sugar consumption is something patients can control or limit during this time and they can add in one more brush/floss per day, they should have no problem keeping cavities away,” he says.
So don’t go wild with the sugar, but don’t feel guilty about trying a friend’s Christmas cake, either. Just remember to spend a couple extra minutes on dental hygiene each day. Your smile (and all those people on the receiving end of it) will appreciate those pearly whites.
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