Don’t Let These Holiday Foods Hurt Your Teeth
It’s no secret that many of the foods that come around during the holiday season aren’t all that great for your health. But many of these sugary, fatty, or high-calorie foods aren’t just bad for your overall health -- they’re also bad for your teeth. These five holiday foods should be enjoyed in moderation this holiday season, to avoid damaging your teeth.
Despite being little more than old bread and some herbs, stuffing is a perennial holiday favorite. Whether it’s served as a side dish or actually cooked inside the turkey, it’s bound to make an appearance at Thanksgiving dinner. Despite the fact that it’s not particularly high in sugar, stuffing is surprisingly bad for your teeth.
Stuffing is primarily composed of carbohydrates. When you eat it, the process of digestion begins almost immediately in your mouth. An enzyme called ⍺-amylase acts as a catalyst for the hydrolysis process that converts starches into sugars, namely maltose and dextrin. These sugars are what oral bacteria like Streptococcus gordonii break down and metabolize. ⍺-amylase also interacts with bacteria in the mouth, binding to oral Streptococci and promoting their adhesion to the tooth surface. This can contribute to dental plaque formation, which can ultimately lead to dental caries (cavities). When amylase is bound to these bacteria, it can hydrolyze starch into glucose, which is then metabolized to yield lactic acid as a byproduct. This lactic acid leads to enamel demineralization, ultimately causing cavities.
Like sugary foods, starchy foods promote the accumulation and growth of anaerobic bacteria that feed on the sugars that the starches are broken down into. As they metabolize the sugars, they secrete acid. This is why stuffing isn’t particularly good for your teeth.
Candy canes are basically pure sugar, for all intents and purposes. They’re composed primarily of sucrose -- common table sugar -- derived from either sugar cane or sugar beets. They also contain high fructose corn syrup, a modified starch. It’s no secret that they’re not great for your teeth, so they’re best consumed in moderation.
Eggnog is a bit of an acquired taste. Some people love it, some people hate it. But with its high sugar content, your teeth are in the latter category. Alcohol isn’t great for your teeth either, although drinking occasionally in moderation won’t destroy your oral health. If you’re worried about your teeth but you still want to enjoy a relaxing drink, something sugar-free like gin and tonic might be a better choice.
Dried fruit sticks easily to the surfaces of your teeth, providing nourishment for the oral bacteria that cause dental caries. Fresh fruit, which hasn’t been dried or preserved, is actually easier on your teeth.
Sugary Baked Goods
This one should go without saying, but in case you’ve been living under a rock all these years, sugary baked goods aren’t particularly good for your dental health. The holidays bring a ton of these things your way. Co-workers bring cookies or homemade pastries, you’ll run into them at your fair share of holiday parties, and there’s almost always pie at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. This time of year, it’s especially important to exercise moderation when it comes to sweets.
Eating Healthy During the Holidays
It’s important to enjoy seasonal foods in moderation and to avoid over-indulging repeatedly throughout the season. Many Thanksgiving and winter holiday favorites are full of sugars and starches that contribute to dental caries, and consuming them too often can cause tooth decay.