Top 5 Not-So-Merry Dental Effects of the Holidays

You know the holidays are here when your social calendar gets busier, your wallet empties faster, and your pants feel tighter. But did you know the holidays can also wreak havoc on your million-dollar smile? Between extra servings of holiday meals, treats, and beverages, stress from shopping and socializing, and disrupted routines, your oral health takes a beating this time of year.


How the Holidays Affect Your Teeth and Gums

a photo of a group of people cheering wine glasses

Before you dive headfirst into the seasonal festivities, take note of the many ways the holidays can destroy your smile and what you can do to prevent it. Your pearly whites will thank you come the new year.


1. Holiday Treats Can Lead to Tooth Decay

For many of us, the holidays lure out our inner child. Sweet delights surround us, which can do a number on our teeth. Between the candy canes, sugar cookies, and New Year’s Eve bubbly, our smiles are at a disadvantage.

Here are some of the foods and habits that  

  • Candy, chocolate, pastries, and most sweets contain tons of sugar that feed the bacteria in your mouth. As they chow down, these bacteria release acid that wears away at your enamel and causes cavities. Sticky treats like peanut brittle, caramel, and toffee can also loosen fillings or make previous dental work fall out.
  • Raisins, dates, and other chewy dried fruit are often high in sugar and can remain on your teeth for hours, giving bacteria plenty of time to do damage.

Further reading: What to Put In Your Plate During Holiday Gatherings to Prevent Dental Problems


2. Seasonal Beverages Stain and Erode Tooth Enamel

The holidays are filled with delicious drinks, but all that sugar, acid, and staining potential adds up to a disaster for your dental health.

  • Eggnog, hot chocolate, and mulled wine may warm you up on a cold winter’s night, but they’re loaded with sugar that feeds the bacteria in your mouth. These bacteria excrete acid that erodes your tooth enamel, causing cavities and sensitive teeth.
  • Coffee, tea, beer, and red wine often contain tannins that can stain your teeth, giving you a not-so-pearly white smile. The acid in these drinks also wears away enamel over time.

Sipping on sugary and acidic drinks throughout the day means your teeth are constantly under attack. Combine that with the stress and busyness of the holidays, which leads us to effects #3 below.


3. Hectic Schedules Lead to Poor Oral Hygiene Habits

The holidays are brimming with social events, travel, and errands that may disrupt your normal routine. This includes your oral care regimen, and slacking on brushing and flossing can do major damage to your smile.

When your schedule gets chaotic, oral hygiene is one of the first things to slip. You might brush once a day instead of the recommended twice daily. Maybe you skip flossing because you’re too tired. Perhaps you forget to pack your toothbrush when traveling to see family. Whatever the reason, failing to clean your teeth properly allows plaque and bacteria to build up, leading to cavities, gum disease, bad breath, and stains.

Here’s how to maintain good oral health during busy holiday schedules:

  • Keep a travel-sized toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss picks in your bag or car for on-the-go cleanings.
  • Carry a reusable water bottle and take sips regularly, especially if you’re indulging in holiday treats. Drinking plenty of water rinses away food particles and bacteria, reducing the risk of tooth decay. It also promotes saliva production, which neutralizes acids in the mouth.
  • Set a specific time in your routine for brushing and flossing, such as right after waking up and before going to bed.

Maintaining good dental health during busy or stressful times may require extra effort, but your smile is worth it. Your teeth and gums will thank you, and you’ll start the new year with a bright, healthy smile.


4. Using Teeth as a Tool or Party Trick

Be careful not to use your pearly whites as tools, or you may end up with chips, cracks, or worse. Also, using your teeth to open packages, hold objects, or perform any task other than chewing food can lead to damage (a painful one) and ruin your smile.

Remember, your teeth are not meant to function as a third hand or substitute tools. Although the crowd may cheer when you open a beer bottle with your teeth, or while it may seem convenient to rip open that gift with your chompers – it’s not worth risking an emergency dental visit.


5. Holiday Stress Can Trigger Teeth Grinding

Between meal preparations and gift shopping for family, friends, co-workers, and everyone else, the holiday season can be stressful, sometimes causing others to unconsciously grind their teeth during sleep. Also called bruxism, this involuntary grinding, clenching, and gnashing wears down your teeth and causes dental problems like tooth sensitivity, jaw pain, and cracked teeth.

Based on your specific symptoms and stressors, the following approaches can help:

  • Consult a top dentist in Chandler, Arizona, for a customized mouthguard. Wearing a mouthguard designed for bruxism prevents dental damage by creating a barrier between teeth and involuntary grinding.
  • Manage stress through self-care. Practice meditation, take a bubble bath, or pursue hobbies you enjoy.

If you notice signs of grinding, such as aching teeth, jaw joint pain, ear pain, headache, and/or stiffness of the face and temples after waking up, set an appointment with Dr. Shervin Rahimi at Kyrene Family Dentistry. You can also contact us to schedule a dental exam in Chandler today.


Final Thoughts on How the Holidays Can Impact Your Smile

a photo of a father and his daughter brushing their teeth

There you have it, the not-so-merry truth about how the holidays can wreck your smile. Between the delicious holiday treats, seasonal beverages, neglected oral health, and teeth grinding from the stress, your pearly whites endure a lot during this time of year. But don’t let the season get the best of your smile. Be proactive and take a few simple steps to offset the damage. Keep brushing and flossing, cut back on sugar when you can, stay hydrated, try to keep your stress levels in check, and don’t forget to get enough sleep at night. Best of luck and happy holidays! Now pass the floss.