Halloween is a great excuse to indulge in sugary treats, from sweet pumpkin spice lattes to bags full of candy bars. No wonder October is also National Dental Hygiene Month! October is one of those months where even the healthiest eaters are likely to consume a lot of sugar.
What’s bad for your teeth is bad for your body, and any food or drink with added sugar tops the list of things you want to limit for your health. Sugar can wreck your teeth, as it feeds some types of oral bacteria that then release acids that weaken tooth enamel – the hard outer coating of your teeth. This dental erosion process creates tiny, shallow holes (cavities), which often get deeper and bigger over time as the decay works its way down to the soft pulp inside the tooth. If you’re not getting regular checkups and cleanings, and you’re an enthusiastic consumer of sugar, it’s a safe bet you’ll be in the dentist’s chair, in need of some serious help, at some point soon.
But you don’t have to cut sugar out of your diet completely. Just limit it. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025 pdf icon[PDF-30.6MB]external icon recommends keeping added sugars to less than 10% of your total daily calories. For example, in a 2,000 calorie diet, no more than 200 calories should come from added sugars (about 12 teaspoons). That may still seem like a lot, and you should figure out what works best for you – ask a doctor or nutritionist.
Halloween and Your Dental Health
Seems like so many of our National Holidays are celebrated with unhealthy food and drinks. But you can enjoy the fun and still maintain your smile and health. Here are some tips to help you ensure that Halloween doesn’t turn into a dental horror show!
Choose Those Treats Wisely. Avoid acidic or sticky candy like caramel/candy apples, dried fruit, hard or sour candy and gummies. Sticky, sugary foods dissolve slowly and deliver the maximum dose of damaging sugar to your teeth.
Chocolate for the Win! Chocolate is a better choice than many other sweet treats. It melts quickly, rather than hanging around on your teeth and fueling the bad oral bacteria in your mouth. Dark chocolate has additional health benefits.
Drink Water/Avoid Sugary Drinks. Soda, juice and sports drinks bathe your teeth in sugar (and potentially, acids if the drink is citrus-flavored). And besides drinking it, rinsing your mouth with water is a great way to remove sugar debris from your teeth and gums until you have time to brush and floss.
Chew Sugar-Free Gum. Chewing sugarless gum increases saliva flow to neutralize acid levels in your mouth and wash away any tasty treats that are stubbornly clinging to your teeth.
Have Dessert, Not Snacks - those cute little "fun size" candy bars are dangerous! It’s too easy to consume a lot of them without realizing how much sugar you’re eating. Instead, have some chocolate after a meal, which makes it easier to control portion size and also doesn’t continually expose your teeth to sugar overload. Plus saliva flow increases during meals, helping to rinse food and drink remnants from teeth and prevent tooth decay.
Fun with Fruit and Veggies. No, we’re not going to suggest you hand out bunches of broccoli to trick-or-treaters. But do remember that crunchy vegetables and fruits are great food choices, especially during the busy, over-indulgent holiday season. They supply essential nutrients, provide stable energy (no sugar crashes!) and can even help clean your teeth between brushings.
Celebrate Your Dental Hygienist
Dental hygienists specialize in preventive oral health care. The services and guidance they offer go far beyond cleaning your teeth. They can show you how to brush and floss correctly and help you educate your children on the importance of good oral hygiene. Your dental hygienist can tell you the best ways to avoid dental decay and gum disease, including developing a nutritional plan to help keep your mouth and teeth healthy.
During your appointment, your dental hygienist will examine your mouth for cavities and evidence of gum disease, which can lead to bigger problems down the line. The hygienist can develop a plan to manage or treat any issues early on by removing plaque (a biofilm that contains bacteria) and calculus (tartar) from both above and below the gum line.
With regular preventive checkups and cleanings and instilling good oral health practices at home, you're much less likely to need costly restorative care treatments, like root canals, crowns and dental implants.
Save Money on Dental Care
Dental insurance may cover the cost of preventive checkups and cleanings. But if you don't have insurance, consider joining a dental savings plan.
Dental savings plans are an affordable alternative to dental insurance. Plan members pay a low annual membership fee for access to an extensive network of participating dentists and dental specialists that provide discounts – typically 10-60% – on dental care at the time of service. If you want to learn more about how dental savings plans can help you maintain your oral health, reach out to us at 1-833-735-0399 or visit DentalPlans.com.