I Just Ate a Candy Cane.  Now What?!?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  It could also be the sweetest.  Are you like Buddy the Elf?  “We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup.”  While we love Buddy and that beloved Christmas movie, we’re not so sure about his nutritional advice.

While you and your family are enjoying the sweet treats of the season, keep these tips in mind to ward off “sugar bugs” (the cutesy name we use for the bacteria that cause cavities).

Helpful Tips for Fighting Cavities

When it comes to fighting cavities during the holiday season, you either have to say NO to the sweets or up your oral hygiene game.  Despite our reputation (as dentists) of wanting to take all the fun out of candy, we really do want you to enjoy the Christmas season!  Here are our tips for enjoying your holiday goodies and fighting cavities at the same time.

  1. Rinse with water!

Immediately after having candy or sweets, gently swish some plain old water around in your mouth.  This helps to dislodge small sugar-packed food or candy particles out of the nooks and crannies in your teeth.  It also brings the pH in your mouth back to neutral more quickly than it would return on its own.  The bacteria in our mouths produce acid when they eat sugar.  That acid is what does all the damage of cavities.  Keeping a neutral pH in your mouth is vital to fighting cavities.

  1. Chew sugar-free gum, preferably with xylitol.

Did you know your saliva is better than water?  It has a higher pH, and it contains enzymes that fight bacteria in your mouth.  By chewing sugar-free gum, you are stimulating the natural production of saliva.  Both the flavor of the gum and the chewing motion cause more saliva to flow.

Xylitol is a bonus!  Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol found in plants that actually kills the bad bacteria in your mouth.  The bacteria eat xylitol, thinking it is sugar, but then they cannot digest it and die.  Our favorite xylitol-containing gum is Ice Cubes.  It comes in a wide variety of flavors and is available at most grocery stores and convenience stores.  Grab a few packs today and start chewing!

  1. Add a fluoride mouthrinse to your oral hygiene routine.

If you are not already using a mouthrinse, this is the time to start!  If you are using a mouthrinse, but it does not contain fluoride, it is time to make a switch.  Fluoride is the best ingredient in oral care products for fighting cavities.

Fluoride strengthens enamel, making it more resistant to acid attacks from bacteria.  By adding a fluoride rinse to your oral hygiene routine, you are making your teeth stronger and less likely to get cavities.

Because fluoride should stay on the teeth as long as possible, we recommend rinsing with a fluoride-containing mouthrinse AFTER brushing and flossing your teeth.  Do not rinse your mouth with water after rinsing with fluoride.  Let it be the last thing on your teeth before your head hits the pillow.

  1. Commit to great oral hygiene practices.

This is not the time of year to slack off with brushing and flossing your teeth!  People eat more sugar, drink more alcohol, and snack more frequently during the day in the holiday season.  All of these things increase the risk for cavities.

Make sure to stick to a consistent oral hygiene routine that includes:

  • Twice daily brushing, after breakfast and before bedtime
  • Once nightly flossing before bedtime
  • Rinsing with a fluoride mouthrinse after brushing and flossing
  • Use any additional teeth cleaning tools your dentist or dental hygienist have recommended, like a water flosser, interdental brushes, etc . . .
  1. Know your cavity risk.

Unfortunately, some people just have a higher risk for cavities than others do.  No, it’s not fair, but it is just the way things are.  If you have a high risk for cavities, these tips are even more important for you.

Do you know what your cavity risk level is?  If not, schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning today.  He will assess your teeth and gums, telling you specifics about your risk areas.  Remember that old G.I. Joe saying: “Knowing is half the battle!”  That is certainly true for your cavity risk.  Once you know it, you can take the appropriate measures to fight it!

More Questions about Sweet Christmas Treats?

Call 940-382-1750 today to schedule a visit with Dr. Chowning or our dental hygienists.  We can answer any candy question you have!

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