From Our 2006 Archives

Don't Brush Off Dental Health Over the Holidays

TUESDAY, Dec. 26 (HealthDay News) -- If you indulge your sweet tooth too much this holiday season, things could go sour in terms of your dental health, warns the American Dental Association (ADA).

When bacteria (plaque) on your teeth come into contact with sugar or starch, they produce acid that attacks the teeth. Over time, this can cause tooth enamel to break down and lead to cavities and other problems.

"If you don't bother to properly clean your teeth, the results might be tooth decay, gum disease and possible tooth loss," Dr. Matthew Messina, and ADA consumer adviser and dentist from the Cleveland area, said in a prepared statement.

He noted that certain kinds of sweet treats are worse than others.

"The stickier things are, like fruit cakes and gummy bears, the less likely they'll be washed out from between the teeth by saliva. Any kind of candy that sticks to your teeth is more harmful than a chocolate bar that gets washed away," Messina said.

The length of time food remains in your mouth is another important factor.

"Cough drops, hard candy and breath mints stay in the mouth for a long period. Unless they are sugar-free products, the teeth are subjected to acid attacks while the product remains in the mouth," Messina said.

The ADA offers some tips on how to enjoy holiday sweets while reducing the risk of tooth decay:

  • Consume sugary foods with meals. Saliva production increases during meals and helps neutralize acid production and rinse food particles from the mouth.
  • Limit between-meal snacks. If you do need a snack, choose nutritious foods and consider chewing sugarless gum after your snack. Sugarless gum increases saliva flow.
  • Drink more water.
  • Brush your teeth twice daily and floss daily.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Dental Association, news release, December 2006

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