Treat Your Teeth Well This Season
Enjoying sweet treats on Halloween or a glass of good cheer on New Year’s Eve is part of the holiday season, but some seasonal fare can take a toll on the health of our teeth and gums.
According to a 2015 report by the National Center of Health Statistics, 27 percent of American adults between the ages of 20 and 64 have untreated tooth decay. Much of this damage is caused by foods that wear away the protective enamel on the surface of our teeth — and you can find many of these foods at seasonal parties and holiday gatherings.
However, there are plenty of delicious options that will allow you to embrace the holiday spirit while keeping your teeth healthy. Here are the top nine foods to either love or limit through the fall and winter holidays.
LOVE: Leafy, Green Vegetables
Raw spinach and kale may not top your list of holiday foods, but these vegetables actually grow best in cool-weather seasons like fall and winter. What’s more, they’re very healthy for your teeth. “Spinach, kale, collard greens — these and other high-fiber vegetables help ‘wash’ our teeth by requiring more chewing, which produces more saliva, a natural lubricant for our teeth,” says Laura Rutledge, MA, RD, a dietitian and assistant professor in the department of nutrition sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Rutledge recommends a salad of leafy greens, strawberries, goat cheese, nuts, and a little oil and vinegar.
LIMIT: Lemons, Limes, Oranges, and Grapefruit
Citrus contains vitamin C and gives you a burst of refreshing flavor — and “vitamin C can help your gums heal,” says Leigh Anne Burns, MS, LDN/RD, a dietitian in practice with LSU Health in New Orleans. However, citrus foods are also highly acidic, which means they can cause enamel erosion, making you more susceptible to tooth decay. Adding an occasional squeeze of lemon or lime to your water is acceptable, but Burns recommends primarily enjoying these acidic fruits “at large meals.” That way, the saliva produced for the rest of the meal can help wash away acid and protect your teeth.
For good oral health, there’s no need to avoid the cheese plate at your next holiday party. Cheese contains casein, a protein with protective properties that helps fight cavities. It also contains calcium and phosphorus, which promote teeth re-mineralization, a naturally occurring process that helps prevent cavities, Rutledge explains. Calcium also helps promote overall bone health, and can be found in many dairy products, including yogurt and ice cream.