There are lots of things to smile about during the holidays – quality time you can spend with family and friends, the fun of exchanging gifts, and of course it’s also a time to share and enjoy festive foods and drinks. With this in mind, we would like to share some tips on how to enjoy your holiday while keeping a bright smile and avoid trouble with your braces. For instance, there are some foods that can stain your teeth more than others and there are foods that promote tooth decay. You’ll want to avoid them or keep them in moderation. On the plus side, there are lots of foods that are not only tasty but that will help promote the health of your teeth as well. And of course, we suggest you keep a lookout for foods that can damage your braces.
Foods to keep in moderation
It is common knowledge that sugar fuels bacterial growth. But who wants to spoil all the fun? Another option would be to consider replacing sugar with substitutes such as xylitol, erythritol or stevia. (But please be sure to keep treats with xylitol or erythritol away from pets as they are very toxic for pets). If you do eat candy dark chocolate is a good choice. Dark chocolate contains a compound that helps harden tooth enamel. Also, the compounds in cocoa beans have an antibacterial effect that fights plaque. We also suggest you avoid soda drinks that are loaded with sugar. Sparkling flavored waters are a great substitute.
Coffee and Tea
Both coffee and tea contain tannins which will stain teeth. However, teas such as green tea have antioxidants that are good for you. Therefore, to prevent staining, keep them in moderation to protect your teeth from staining. A tea you can drink as an alternative is Rooibos. This tea originated in South Africa but is becoming more popular in other parts of the world. And it doesn’t contain tannins that can stain your teeth.
Fruits (that stain teeth)
Blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, and pomegranates. These fruits can heavily stain your teeth. On the other hand, they also have healthy qualities such as antioxidants and vitamin C. So I won’t say avoid them. But do keep them in moderation.
Like tea, wine also contains tannins which can stain your teeth. So we recommend you have some water or soda water after your wine.
Foods to Avoid
Nuts: Almonds, peanuts and pecans are the three major nuts found in holiday foods, such as peanut brittle, pecan pie and brownies. They are hard, and you might accidentally bend or break your brackets or wire.
Caramel apples – Caramel apples can be quite a temptation. But the sticky and hard food particles get stuck between braces, so it’s difficult to remove food residue. If you don’t remove all food particles, you run the risk of developing plaque buildup.
Candy canes (hard candies) — You may be tempted to try a candy cane or some hard candy thinking, “I’ll just suck on it but I won’t chew it.” However, most people are too tempted to bite and chew hard candy. Chewing on hard candy breaks the candy into sharper pieces, which can damage braces or cut gums. Plus, candy canes are pure sugar and vinegar, and vinegar is a natural acid. Snacking on candy canes allows for the acid and sugar can cause loss of tooth enamel. So prolonged consumption can cause tooth decay to occur.
Foods that promote your dental health
Foods Rich in Calcium and Phosphorus
Enamel is the hardest substance in the human body and contains the highest percentage of minerals. It is made up mostly of minerals, primarily hydroxyapatite, which is a crystalline calcium phosphate. Calcium helps y teeth by strengthening tooth enamel. Calcium needs phosphorus to maximize bone strengthening. Here are some suggestions for calcium and phosphorus:
Calcium: Green leafy vegetables, yogurt, cheese (hard, aged), seafood, milk (low-fat), tofu, almonds.
Phosphorous: turkey, chicken, dairy, fish, red meat, eggs, tofu
Foods rich in Vitamin D: Vitamin D is vital for your overall health. It helps your body absorb calcium which is vital for strong teeth. Foods high in Vitamin D: fish e.g. tuna, mackerel salmon), egg yolks, cod liver oil, spinach, kale, okra, collards, soybeans and white beans.
Fibrous fruits and vegetables: Foods with fiber stimulate saliva flow, which is a natural defense against cavities. Saliva helps wash away food particles. Also about 20 minutes after you eat something, saliva begins to neutralize the acids attacking your teeth. Here are some examples of high fiber fruits and vegetables:
Fruits: bananas, oranges, raspberries, strawberries, mangos, persimmons.
Vegetables: Carrots, celery, broccoli, collard greens and Swiss chard
*Raw vegetables are best to avoid while you have braces. Baked or steamed vegetables are soft enough for people with braces to eat.
In summary, there are lots of great foods you can have during the holidays. Just eat in moderation the foods that can stain your teeth. And rinse with clear water after eating or drinking any highly staining food.
Dr. David McDonough & Team