Christmas is many people's favourite time of the year. But it can come with excited kids, reduced dental clinic hours, sugary treats, and extra alcohol consumption, making it a tricky time for teeth.[1]

If you're concerned about your family's teeth this Christmas, follow these 5 festive dental tips to help lower your risk of dental emergencies or starting 2019 with a toothache.

1. Cut down on sugar

When you consume sugar in food or drink, you're not doing it alone. Bacteria living in plaque on your teeth also feast on this sugar and produce acid that can wear down the surface of your teeth over time. This is the process known as tooth decay.[2]

People of all ages can be affected by tooth decay, but children's teeth are especially vulnerable, as the enamel layer is thinner and weaker. This can lead to cavities forming if they consume too much sugar in drinks and snacks and aren't brushing their teeth properly.[2]

You don't have to avoid sugar completely over the holidays, but it's a good idea to limit how much you and your family consume. This doesn't just mean the obvious sticky lollies and chocolate either, but also dried fruits that are high in sugar and stick to the teeth, processed foods. And be wary of sugary beverages like soft drinks, fruit juices and sports drinks.[2]

2. Less alcohol, more water

Alcohol is often a staple at many holiday parties and family gatherings, but consuming it can add to your risk of a dental emergency or problem. As well as causing teeth stains and increasing the risk of trips and falls that could damage teeth, excessive alcohol intake can be a risk factor for a number of oral health problems, including oral cancer.[2]

If you do drink alcohol, you can minimise some of its direct effects on your teeth by drinking water at the same time. Drinking water throughout the day helps wash away leftover food and dilute acids on the teeth.

3. Don't use your teeth as tools

When you're busy wrapping presents and you don't have a pair of scissors handy, avoid the temptation to tear sticky tape with your teeth.

That goes for opening any kind of packaging, cracking nuts or opening bottle caps - these can all do serious damage such as broken teeth or damaged dental work (crowns, dentures, etc.). Make sure kids don’t try to open boxes or gifts using their teeth or mouths to tear at the packaging – a dental injury could do a lot to dampen the excitement of getting that new toy!

Eating hard nuts and candy canes also puts teeth at risk of getting chipped or cracked, so be cautious when eating holiday treats or giving them to children.[3]

If you do happen to damage a tooth, you should contact a dentist as soon as possible. Make sure you’re familiar with your local clinic’s seasonal hours.[4]

4. Wear a mouthguard when playing sports

The Christmas holidays usually mean more free time for kids to play outside – and sometimes that means more chances to get into a little trouble.

If your children are playing contact sports like rugby or any other activities that put their mouth, teeth and jaws at risk of injury from other players or impacts, they should wear a mouthguard. You can get a custom fit mouthguard from a dentist. Wearing a mouthguard can reduce the severity of injuries and may prevent teeth from getting knocked out.[5]

If a permanent tooth does get knocked out, you should contact your dentist to arrange an emergency appointment. It may be possible to save a knocked-out tooth if it's still mostly intact and you can see a dentist immediately.[4]

Need a dentist ASAP? Find your nearest Bupa Dental clinic.

5. Don't forget your hygiene habits

Even when there's so much else to think about, it's important to make sure you and your family are taking good care of your teeth and gums by following good oral hygiene every day. This means:[2]

  • Brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
  • Flossing between your teeth once a day
  • Following a healthy and balanced diet
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Keeping up with your scheduled dental check-ups

If you have little ones who are excited about a visit from Santa, now’s a good time to remind them that Santa would prefer they keep up with the brushing and flossing routines you’ve told them about!

Like many businesses, dental clinics are often closed at certain times over the holidays. To find out when your local Bupa dentist is open, check their Christmas opening hours..

References

[1] American Dental Association. Have You Been Naughty or Nice to Your Teeth? [Online] 2015 [Accessed December 2018] Available from: www.mouthhealthy.org

[2] Better Health Channel. Teeth care [Online] 2014 [Accessed December 2018] Available from: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au

[3] American Dental Association. 6 Tips for Cavity-Free Holidays [Online] 2013 [Accessed December 2018] Available from: www.mouthhealthy.org

[4] Queensland Government. Emergency dental [Online] 2015 [Accessed December 2018] Available from: www.qld.gov.au

[5] Australian Dental Association. Mouthguards [Online] 2017 [Accessed December 2018] Available from: www.ada.org.au