A Healthy Mouth for the Holiday Season

Jessica Frasnelli, director of hygiene, TenBrook Orthodontics

The holiday season is here again, with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's quickly approaching.

We have already splurged on Halloween candy. The temptation to snack on sweets can be hard to resist. There are tricks of the trade that you might not be aware of to help maintain a healthy mouth.

Limiting sweets, brushing, and flossing are not the only ways to prevent cavities and decrease bacteria in the mouth. As a dental hygienist, I teach my patients to choose the proper sweets and protect their teeth. I also emphasize how straight teeth play a big part in maintaining a healthy smile.

When choosing a sweet treat, you want to choose things that are non-retentive.

If you had to choose between a Tootsie Roll and Hershey Kiss, which one would you pick? They're both chocolate and both sweet, but the Hershey Kiss would be the best choice because it can be easily brushed off teeth.

Whether it is a candy or a healthy snack, like Craisins, sugar does not discriminate. Retentive foods that are sticky and tacky stay in the deeper grooves of the teeth, where the toothbrush cannot reach. This allows sugar to linger in your mouth for a longer period.

The duration of time, in which the teeth are exposed to sugars and acids, affects the integrity of the enamel. You may remember, back in health class, we learned that everything except meat breaks down to a simple carbohydrate (sugar).

Meat breaks down to an amino acid, therefore, everything besides plain meat has the potential to cause a cavity. Every time you put something in your mouth, it represents 30 minutes of sugar or acid exposure. If you find yourself snacking frequently, you are feeding the bacteria in the mouth.

I recommend enjoying those snacks in one sitting. If you don't have access to a toothbrush, drink water or chew sugar-free gum.

Acidic drinks, such as sodas, can be more damaging than sugars, when consumed frequently. As a mom, I worry about my kid’s teeth. I try to let them indulge at one time, instead of snacking throughout the evening - at least I try!

There are a few procedures that can be done to protect teeth.

An in-office preventative procedure, like sealants, can be placed by your hygienist. Sealants are a great way to protect teeth from those sticky, tacky foods getting stuck in the grooves of teeth. They are a thin protective coating that flows into the deep grooves.

Sealants can last up to 10 years to help prevent cavities. Adults who have deep grooves, and a high risk for cavities, would also benefit from dental sealants.

Adding a fluoride rinse at night can help strengthen the tooth enamel and root surface. It should be the last step of teeth cleaning before bed.

Sealants and a fluoride rinse can help you get through the holidays with less sensitivity, and decreased bacteria.

Most people don't realize that the alignment of their teeth affects the health of their mouths. In reality, proper alignment is a game-changer.

Crooked teeth and an improper bite can make it difficult to maintain a healthy mouth. Teeth that are crowded or overlapped create more surface area for food and bacteria to build up, making those areas harder to keep clean.

A proper bite is also important. Teeth are designed to come together to distribute the biting forces. When biting forces are placed on teeth not designed to take the load, it can lead to an increased need for dental work, such as root canals, periodontal treatments, and fillings by the gumline.

Using all of your teeth to chew food is self-cleansing. When teeth are not used for chewing, they build up more bacteria, which travels through the bloodstream. The increased load of bacteria is not only an oral problem but an overall health issue.

Orthodontics is not only for straightening teeth. It helps you maintain a healthy mouth and a healthy self.

Remember to choose the correct snacks, brush, floss, and use a fluoride rinse at night. Consider sealants and orthodontics for the long-term health of your mouth.

Enjoy your holiday season and all the goodness that it brings. Be true to your teeth, they won't be false to you.

TenBrook Orthodontics has locations in Galloway, Northfield, Marmora/Ocean City, and Millville. For more information, call 1 (877) SMILE10 or visit www.tenbrookorthodontics.com.