How to protect your teeth over the holidays

With Christmas coming on the heels of Thanksgiving, Americans spend a lot of time around food this part of the year, but the impact of more cookies―and perhaps less brushing―is unlikely to have a serious impact on oral health.

Dr. Art Mowery of Exceptional Dentistry and Sedation Center in Gainesville said the habits people follow throughout the year makes the difference.

“Like probably every healthcare provider would just say, stay up with your maintenance. Do your regular stuff…do all the little stuff ahead of time,” Mowery said.

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While an increase in sugar, spice or everything tasty might not have long lasting effects, holiday stress could create the biggest problems.

Mowery said one of the biggest risks to oral health can be dry mouth, especially if severe. Stress and anxiety can produce or increase the issue along with medications like pain relievers, antidepressants and sleeping aides.

“Probably one of the biggest issues for people to have decay and to run into failing restorations or just failing dental care is actually dry mouth,” Mowery said.

Most cavities take months or longer to instigate oral problems, but with dry mouth―or xerostomia―cavities and plaque multiply rapidly.

Mowery said to keep an eye on saliva. Is it thicker? Is it bubbly or just less of it? They could be signs.

One of the easiest counters to dry mouth is to simply drink more water, moisturizing your mouth and washing away some sugars or acids.

For some cases, Mowery coordinates with a patient's primary doctor to see if a change of medication or different doses could help.

Dr. Art Mowery dentist

Being proactive keeps tooth decay and concern in check. Mowery said a doctor can switch patients over to a different mouthwash or suggest adding one extra visit per year besides keeping on top of normal maintenance.

Holidays can also create a shift in oral perception though. Mowery says his number of patients for cosmetic work―whitening, capping and fixing crooked teeth―increases starting in November.

Family pictures and Christmas cards could be the culprit, according to Mowery, and for patients wanting a smile upgrade, he says a lot of progress can be made in just a couple visits.

America’s socially distant lifestyle over the past nearly two years has also made a dent. Mowery says as people interact over Zoom, FaceTime, Microsoft Teams and other video conferencing technologies, they spend more time looking at themselves.

A computer screen may be filled with faces, but everyone sneaks a few glances at themselves. Something like a crooked or chipped tooth might seem more obvious when you see it multiple times a day. And if you use a giant TV as your screen, that sideways tooth could leave what seems like a foot-wide gap.

Overall though, Christmas songs don’t breed cavities—but Grinch-like habits do.

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