There are so many things to do to prepare, from meal planning and making arrangements for travel to purchasing gifts and designing your holiday decoration displays, it’s easy to forget to prioritize your health. We all know that the holidays can wreak havoc on our waistlines, as the endless office and home parties typically feature all kinds of tempting sweets, rich alcoholic beverages, and fatty, but delicious, savory dishes. Those same dishes and drinks can also pose a real risk to your oral and dental health. Be proactive about your dental health this holiday season by following these five strategies to minimize collateral damage from your holiday party snacking.
- Drink water when you drink alcohol. Alcohol dehydrates the body, which is one of the primary causes of hangovers, that sickly feeling combined with light intolerance and pounding headaches that can plague partiers the morning after they over imbibe. Drinking water while you’re drinking alcoholic beverages can also help protect your pearly whites from all the acids in those drinks. Most people should drink one eight-ounce glass of water per glass of wine or beer. This will help prevent a build-up of acids and sugars from damaging your teeth (or their enamel).
- Pack a toothbrush. This may sound like something your mother would tell you before you leave for sleepaway camp, but it’s one of the best ways to prevent tooth decay resulting from sugary sweets during holiday parties. Once everyone has had their dinner and their dessert, and once the table is cleared, you can head to the bathroom with your discrete travel toothbrush.
Toothpaste can certainly help and will also freshen your breath, but if you’re trying to be incognito about your oral hygiene habits, eschewing the toothpaste until you brush again before bed is fine. The friction of brushing your teeth, gums, and tongue will dislodge most of any remaining detritus from the meal and also remove the bacteria that is already flocking to the surface of your teeth for a sugar party. No only will you remove any leftovers and plaque that has started to build, you can freshen your breath a little too, making it easier to meet someone under that mistletoe.
NOTE: Do not brush immediately after an alcoholic drink. Alcohol softens the enamel of your teeth. By waiting 20 to 60 minutes after drinking to brush your teeth, you give your enamel a chance to harden back up again.
- Switch to club soda. If you’re drinking hard liquor and prefer not to drink it straight (after all, this is a party, and people will probably be chatting and sipping, as opposed to swishing and savoring a single malt whiskey in silence), consider switching out the soda pops often used as mixers to club soda. Club soda has substantially less sugar and as a resultant, it can also cut a few calories from an otherwise indulgent evening. The less sugar your teeth are being covered in, the overall better you can expect your mouth to come out of this holiday season. Club soda may not be the most colorful or exciting of mixers when it’s party time, but using club soda to cut your liquor means you can enjoy a drink without worrying about the impact on your oral health.
- Chew sugar-free gum if you’re a smoker. Chewing sugar-free gum serves two purposes. First and foremost, it stimulates the production of saliva, which is a big part of how your body naturally protects and cleans your teeth. Some gums are even made with optical brighteners included to help your teeth look cleaner and shinier after you’ve chewed it. The second benefit of gum chewing is that is can reduce your compulsion to smoke, as smoking as a habit is generally born of a combination of nicotine dependence and an oral fixation. By giving your mouth something else productive to do, you can stave off that craving for another smoke for a little bit longer, reducing the overall amount of tobacco you consume, which is always a plus for your oral health.
- Sip your drinks through a straw. Some people may laugh at this, particularly if you’re drinking from a can or a bottle with a straw, but there are few other ways to successfully divert the sugar in your sweet holiday drinks from the most viewed section of your mouth: your front teeth. Whether you’re drinking a sports drink, a soda, or a mixed drink, a straw can help protect your front teeth from the worst of the sugar.
While none of these practices are a replacement for standard dental care and a good diet, taking a few preventative measures to ensure you’re not damaging your oral health during the holidays can give you peace of mind during those wild office parties.