One gift that’s in short supply during holiday vacations is relaxation. Instead, it’s go-go-go and ho-ho-ho! Travel. Shopping. Parties. More parties. Healthy habits often take a backseat, and dental health? Well, it’s buried under the luggage in the trunk.
You’ve invested some of your precious holiday time in reading this article, so think about how you can implement these pro-tips into your busy schedule. If you keep your teeth as white as snow and your breath pepperminty-fresh, don’t be surprised if Santa meets you under the mistletoe to request a little gift of his own.
First, Hydrate for the Holidays
Nothing keeps the body going more than pure H2O. It flushes toxins, hydrates cells, and promotes energy. Generally, women need about 3 liters and men need 4 liters of water per day. Sodas, sports drinks, and other sugar-laden beverages don’t count toward these hydration goals.
While it’s good for overall health, water also benefits dental health. In addition to keeping your mouth moist, which deters cavities, water rinses away food particles and acids every time you take a swig. It also helps deter bad breath, so keep chugging!
If you travel to a mountainous destination like a ski resort, remember that altitude dehydrates the body. You’ll need to drink more water than usual to feel well hydrated.
Keep water close at hand by stowing full bottles in your purse or bag, and refill them as necessary. Children, teens, and senior citizens need hydration reminders, too. And here’s a bonus: refillable water bottles make great stocking stuffers.
If you imbibe in spirits this season, hydration is even more important. Alcoholic drinks dehydrate, so the rule of thumb is, consume the same amount of water as alcohol, drink for drink.
Second, Build Your Smile Go-Bag
Create a smile go-bag for dental hygiene on the fly and keep it in your purse, bag, or car. A sandwich bag or cosmetics bag works well. Pack it with:
- A travel toothbrush and toothpaste
- Pre-threaded, disposable flossers
- Sugar-free gum or mints
- Lip balm and/or gloss (ChapStick makes holiday flavors.)
- Small scissors, because teeth shouldn’t be used to open things
Third, Get Back to Basics
It can take up to 254 days of performing a task for it to become a habit. And though you’ve been brushing and hopefully flossing your teeth for years, a change in routine can lead to taking a hiatus from an established habit. For instance, traveling or hosting relatives in your home could cause you to neglect before-bed brushing and flossing.
So here’s a reminder of the dental health basics you should try to maintain, even when your routine changes.
- Brush morning and evening
- Floss after evening brushing
- Limit sugary snacks
- Don’t let starches stick around - rinse with water after eating and don’t suck on sugary hard candies
- Use a straw for sugary or acidic drinks to limit exposure to your teeth
Pro-Tips: Smile-Saving Secrets
Cheese Before Wine: All wines and some cocktails are acidic. Introducing acid into your mouth makes tooth enamel more prone to staining. So, coat your teeth with oily cheese prior to imbibing. The oil will shield enamel, and who doesn’t like cheese with wine?
Protein and Planning: For your dental health and your waistline, plan how much you’ll eat and drink prior to attending a holiday party or gathering. Do not start by eating starchy hors d'oeuvres, but instead choose proteins. Meats and cheeses will fill you up so you’ll have less room for starchy fillers and sugary sweets.
Protect the Breath: Steer clear of walnuts, Brazil nuts, eggs, beans, fish, garlic, onion, and soft cheeses. These treats feed odor-producing bacteria in your mouth, more so than other foods. And again, hydrate. Rinse away those smelly foods and bacteria, then top it all off with a sugar-free peppermint.
Lastly, Remember the Kids
Bedtimes get later, homework is on hold, and Santa is always watching. While it’s fun to let routine slip a bit, if adults need a reminder to take care of their teeth, how much more do your children need one?
Hydration, brushing and flossing, and not overindulging in sweets aren’t easy tasks for excited little elves. It’s up to Mom and Dad to prioritize healthy habits when schedules run amok. Here are some parenting hacks to help your little ones’ smiles this holiday season:
- Make hydration convenient by keeping water bottles full and easily accessible.
- Don’t purchase energy drinks and sodas. Removing options can help avoid conflict.
- If you want to give the kids sweets, consider sugar-free varieties. Candy, cookies, and even hot cocoa come in sugarless options.
- Instead of centering activities around food, like building gingerbread houses and decorating cookies, plan crafts and games that don’t involve food. Make red and green paper garlands, paint pine cones for ornaments, or go on a nature walk.
- Reward routine. For instance, read a bedtime story after nighttime brushing or make a chart and give your child a sticker for every kept routine.
Easy as Sugar Plum Pie
Making wise choices for your dental health during the holidays isn’t hard at all. With a little foresight and the pro-tips in this article, you can take care of your smile and those closest to your heart.