Mind & Body
Preventing Cavities Over Christmas
12/2/2017 2:59:20 PM
Christmas Cavities

During the holiday season, sweets surround us. At home, at work and at holiday parties, sugary treats are there to tempt us.

We tend to think about this in terms of potential weight gain, but what about our teeth? You probably know that sugar can contribute to cavity formation, but here’s the thing: Sugar is just one element in the cavity formation cycle.

"Most people just think sweet foods cause decay, but actually three components have to be present,” says Harry Castle, DDS, of Oak Park Dental. "Number one, plaque on the teeth, usually from non-brushing. Number two, sugar. Number three, bacteria in the mouth.”

It works like this: When you eat foods containing sugar or drink sugary beverages, you naturally end up with sugar on your teeth. If you don’t brush well enough and get all the sugar off, bacteria will begin feeding on it, forming plaque. The bacteria also use sugar to produce acids, which eat away at your teeth. Then, when you eat more sugar, the bacteria-filled plaque is already there, more acid is formed, and the cycle continues.

According to Dr. Castle, the best thing you can do to prevent cavities — during the holidays and throughout the rest of the year — is brush your teeth properly. However, in his opinion, doing so requires an electric toothbrush. 

"When people are brushing their teeth and still getting cavities, it probably comes down to the fact that they are using a manual toothbrush and not covering all of the surfaces to get rid of that plaque,” Dr. Castle says. "I suggest a motorized electric toothbrush. There’s no other way to do it.”

A research review published in 2014 that included 56 previously published studies found that powered, or electric, toothbrushes were 11 percent more effective than manual toothbrushes at reducing plaque after one month of use. After three months of use, they were 21 percent more effective.

The American Dental Association (ADA) says you should brush twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Also be sure to replace your toothbrush if the bristles are frayed.

And do be conscious of your sugar intake. The more sugar you eat (or drink), the more food you’re providing to that acid-forming bacteria. Be especially cautious with sugary foods that cling to your teeth for a long time — think dried fruits, hard candy, and honey — as well as soda or other sugary drinks if you sip them throughout the day.

Finally, although there is no need to make a special trip to the dentist after the holiday season, be sure to go every six months for a checkup and cleaning.

In the meantime, if you’re smart about your holiday snacking and you brush your teeth correctly, you can enjoy the season without fear of cavities.

The Correct Way to Brush your Teeth 
According to the ADA 
  • Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums.
  • Gently move the toothbrush back and forth in short (the width of a tooth) strokes.
  • Brush the inner, outer and chewing surfaces of your teeth.
  • Tilt the brush vertically and use up-and-down strokes to clean the inside surfaces of your front teeth.
Posted by: Andrea Mongler | Submit comment | Tell a friend

Categories: Health

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