"From fizzy drinks and chocolates to wine and even the fruit in our Christmas pudding, many of the food and drinks we indulge in over Christmas are particularly acidic and can lead to erosion of teeth, according to Dr Paul O’Dwyer, group clinical advisor at Dental Care Ireland.
"With a bit of thought and planning, however, it is possible to enjoy all your seasonal favourites, and still maintain a healthy mouth and smile too."
Here are Dr Paul's six top tips to a healthy Christmas smile:
1. Restrict treats to mealtime
Instead of grazing on selection boxes, biscuits or sweets throughout the day, enjoy a few treats as dessert after a meal. Saliva production increases during meals, which helps rinse away sugary food particles and can reduce the risk of cavities.
2. Beware of hidden sugars
As well as frequency of snacking, the length of time sugary food stays in your mouth can affect tooth decay. Avoid treats that tend to linger in the mouth, such as hard candy canes or sticky sweets, as they will do the most damage to teeth. The dried fruit in seasonal favourites such as Christmas puddings and mince pies is also high in sugar and likely to stick to teeth.
3. Cheese please
Cheese helps return the mouth to its natural acid balance and reduce the chances of developing tooth decay. Even a small piece of cheese can have a positive effect, so enjoy that cheeseboard after dinner!
4. Tooth-friendly turkey
Another tooth-friendly Christmas staple is turkey. Turkey is a great source of phosphorus and protein, both of which can help your body fight tooth decay and keep your teeth strong and healthy.
5. Drink water
Where possible, avoid fizzy drinks and even fruit drinks or smoothies that can often be viewed as healthy but tend sometimes to be high in sugar and bad for your teeth.
If you enjoy a glass or two of wine*, it is best consumed with food to alleviate potential damage to teeth. Both red and white wine can stain teeth so be sure to brush well afterwards.
Drinking plenty of water throughout the festivities will help to dilute any acid attacks caused by sugary snacks or drinks.
6. Remember your routine
As teeth may be exposed to more sugar and acid over the Christmas period, maintaining a basic dental care routine at home is key for all the family. Ideally, brush twice per day for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste, floss daily, and drink plenty of water.
After eating sugary treats, a good tip is to wait 30 minutes before brushing. Some acidic foods soften your enamel, so if you brush right after eating them, you can risk hurting your enamel further while it is still sensitive.
Dr Paul O’Dwyer BDS, MSc is group clinical advisor at Dental Care Ireland, a new Irish-owned network of established dental practices nationwide. For further information, visit www.dentalcareireland.ie