With the festive countdown now in full swing, your oral health may be fairly far down on your Christmas to-do list. However, according to Henry Clover, Chief Dental Officer at Simplyhealth Professionals, there are some very common ways you could unknowingly damage your pearly whites over the festive period. “No one is going to spoil your fun or tell you off for a little overindulgence this Christmas,” says Henry, “but there are a few handy tips you can follow to limit the impact on your oral health."
With so many delicious treats on tap at this time of year, it’s easy to find yourself almost continuously grazing over the festive period. According to Henry, this drip-feed approach is a major cause of tooth decay, but a simple adjustment to when you eat sugar means you can still indulge a little whilst protecting your teeth. “It’s not the volume of sugar you eat that damages your teeth, it’s how often you eat it,” says Henry. “Every time we have something sugary, bacteria in our mouths produce acids that can cause tooth decay. If you’re continually snacking, your teeth will be under constant attack. This means it’s far better if you polish off your chocolate coins in one go, or as part of a meal, rather than grazing on them throughout the day.” Brilliant – permission to scoff your festive treats all at once.
We’ve all been there; it’s Christmas Eve and you’ve left wrapping presents to the last minute. You’re hastily trying to keep the roll of paper steady with one hand whilst frantically ripping off strips of sticky tape with your teeth. However, this is a potential tooth-hazard waiting to happen says Henry: “You put enormous pressure on the edges of your teeth when you tear sticky tape, and it’s an easy way to crack or weaken teeth, or even dislodge a crown or veneer,” he says. “Invest in a tape dispenser and save yourself a potential tooth injury.”
Nothing is more annoying than being unable to reach something stuck in your teeth, and this could happen at some point over the festive season with all the yuletide feasting. However, using something other than proper dental floss or interdental brushes could be damaging. “Poking at your teeth and gums with sharp improvised tools can cause bleeding and tooth injuries,” advises Henry. “Try to gently work trapped food loose with dental floss or interdental brushes. It can also be helpful to try and soften the object by swishing warm water around your mouth. If you can’t dislodge it and it’s starting to cause you pain, speak to your dentist.”
Christmas chocolate selection boxes often come with the ever-popular toffee sweets. Whilst these are delicious, they are a tooth-hazard waiting to happen if you have any kind of dental restoration. “Toffees are extremely sticky and have the power to pull off dental restorations such as fillings, crowns, bridges, or veneers,” says Henry. “Opt for chocolates that melt and leave the mouth quickly to limit any dental damage.”
Christmas wouldn’t be complete without this sparkling treat, but according to Henry it packs a punch on your oral health. “Prosecco is one of the most dentally-damaging drinks if drunk frequently due to the acid, sugar and alcohol levels,” he says. “Enjoy it in moderation and make sure you limit the erosive effects on your tooth enamel by drinking plenty of water in between glasses.”
It may sound obvious, but cracking nuts with your teeth is a bad idea. “Believe it or not, dentists do see patients who thought they’d have a go at cracking a nut open with their teeth, only to shatter a molar in the process,” says Henry. “Nut shells are incredibly hard and teeth are a completely inappropriate tool to open them with. Always use nutcrackers.”
According to Henry, dental accidents can happen quickly and it can be difficult to completely avoid them, but you can be mindful of potential risks. “Common dental injuries can occur from overexcited children and pets jumping up and accidently knocking into your jaw or mouth,” he says. “It’s also common at crowded social gatherings for someone to brush past you and inadvertently knock your glass into your teeth while you’re taking a sip of a drink.”
Forgetting to brush
There are already limitless jobs to get done in the run up to the big day, and brushing your teeth is often seen as a chore that can drop down the priorities list. “Forgetting to brush your teeth on the odd occasion is unlikely to do your teeth any harm,” says Henry. “However, if you get into the habit of not brushing regularly over the whole festive period, you could put your teeth and gums at increased risk of developing problems. Aim to brush for two minutes, twice a day. It can be helpful to brush your teeth as soon as you wake up - before you do anything else - to avoid forgetting.”
Opening bottles with teeth
Just as with using your teeth to crack nuts, never open bottles with your teeth. “After a few drinks, opening bottles with your teeth may seem like a harmless idea, but it’s obviously got the potential to cause serious dental damage,” says Henry. “When hosting Christmas parties, make sure you’ve got plenty of bottle openers handy for guests to use so that no one’s tempted to resort to using their teeth.”
While blenders are ideal for crushing the ice in your Christmas cocktails, your teeth are not. “Chewing on ice can create microscopic fractures in healthy tooth enamel and can break teeth – especially if you have any fillings, crowns, or bridges,” says Henry. “For those with sensitive teeth, the cold can also worsen dental pain.”