Traditionally, the holiday period is when many of our wonderful Elegant Dentistry patients get in touch with us about cosmetic matters such as teeth whitening and dental veneers to help them look their best.
This year may be extra busy for us. For starters, people who work in entertainment are now hurriedly getting back to work now that this summer’s strikes have been settled. For many, this will mean a flurry of auditions, meetings, events, and industry mixers. And most others, regardless of their field, will have to deal with the usual holiday festivities as well.
Ironically, while the holiday season is a time when we especially want our smiles to be at their most beautiful, it’s also a time when we risk new general or cosmetic dentistry problems. That’s partly because, except for champagne on New Year’s, there is hardly a single food or drink associated with the holidays that can’t stain teeth. Even more important, many of these foods and drinks have significant amounts of sugar which can lead to tooth decay and periodontal issues. Moreover, overconsuming in general can lead to a host of serious health issues, including diabetes that can harm our teeth and gums along with our vital organs.
Now here’s the hard part. At the same time as you’re supposed to be minimizing your consumption of all these holiday treats, it’s also important to enjoy yourself!
You probably want to kill us right about now but we do have some suggestions to help have your cake, eat it…and then move on with your life. Let’s look at some ways to help keep your smile bright, your health good, and your waistline stable during the holidays.
Keep it Real
Sometimes people who are very concerned with their health and appearance may decide to make unrealistic holiday pledges. If you swear that not even one sugary baked good, candy, or high-calorie alcoholic beverage will pass your lips, you may be setting yourself up for failure.
The problem with taking too hard a line is that it can lead to all-or-nothing thinking. So, if your absolute favorite things in the world are your aunt’s blondies and your uncle’s secret eggnog recipe with dark rum, and they’re both going to be present at Thanksgiving and Christmas, you’re likely to succumb sooner or later. And, if you feel as if you’ve somehow betrayed yourself or shown weakness, this can lead to a shame spiral that makes you want to give up all your efforts and just go, you should pardon the expression, whole hog. Not good.
We now know that there are genuine hormonal reasons why overeating is so difficult to manage for people with weight issues. If you find yourself unable to maintain a healthy weight, you don’t have a character flaw; you have a body that wants to keep you at a certain weight, which is usually many more pounds than we’d prefer.
We suggest more of what you might call a harm-reduction approach. This strategy accepts that the holidays are a special time and, if avoid all your favorite treats, you’re likely to simply feel deprived and stressed out. That’s not good for you either.
The real goal is to have fun and enjoy some indulgences but in reasonable amounts. After all, it’s not particularly fun to feel so stuffed after a meal that you can barely move – even to get up and brush your teeth. Moderation really is the best way to go.
Not-So Weird Tricks
We know that advice like “eat but don’t eat way too much” can be confusing and much easier said than done, but there are a few steps you can take to reduce risk the risk of going overboard.
One common-sense tip is to try to separate yourself from goodies when you’re not actually celebrating. This means, for example, not having them in the house where they will tempt you 24 hours a day and maybe wait until later to buy or make them. This may be more difficult for parents and hosts of get-togethers. If that’s you, try to think of as many ways as possible to keep your favorite treats inaccessible until the big day comes. Then, you’ll have to share them with others in a public setting rather than being tempted to have them as snacks for several days before an event.
One other tip you may have heard is to avoid starving yourself in preparation for a holiday gathering and have a decent-sized breakfast and/or lunch beforehand. This will help you to avoid overdoing it on appetizers/snacks before dinner. When you arrive, try to steer away from the potato chips and such and head towards the veggie tray.
The overall goal should be to try and limit yourself to normal servings of your favorite treats and steer away from anything fattening that you might not really love all that much in the first place; they’re not worth the calories!
Managing the Aftermath
Now, after you’ve eaten a single serving of your favorites, you may find yourself still feeling hungry even though you know you’ve had plenty. There is a lag between the time we eat and when satiety hormones kick in to tell us we’re full and have had enough – and it’s longer for people with weight issues!
Once you’ve finished your meal, it’s a good time to drink a low or no-calorie beverage and talk to the other guests. Caffeine can help quell hunger, so some coffee or tea during or after desert can be a big help to keep you from eating “just one more” cookie or slice of pie. Focus on the other people at your get-together and whatever cravings you experience should dissipate within a fairly short time.
Of course, even if you follow all these tips, there’s no guarantee that you won’t overdo things. If that happens, don’t beat yourself up. Remember that the holidays come only once a year and tomorrow will be another day.
Dental Hygiene Will Save Your Mouth!
While recovering from a holiday weight gain caused by overconsumption of high-calorie food and drink can be a real chore, preventing damage to your teeth is as easy as regular oral hygiene. Just do what you should already be doing after every meal: brush, floss, and perhaps use mouthwash. Also, make sure your next dental appointment is scheduled!
A note about brushing: It’s best not to do it immediately after eating or drinking something acidic such as wine, cranberry sauce, fruit juice, soda, or coffee. Your teeth need about thirty minutes after contacting these abrasive comestibles to remineralize and protect your pretend precious tooth enamel. It’s also good to try and wait about half an hour after brushing before you eat or drink anything.
While you can easily protect the health of your teeth, protecting their whiteness can be more of a challenge. Avoiding all the many darker-colored drinks and foods that can stain teeth may be more effort than it’s worth. Giving up red wine, dark tea, coffee, dark beer, most fruit juice, dark sodas, dark liquors, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, tomato sauce, curry, assorted condiments, and (naturally) chocolate is ridiculous – for most people, anyhow. However, we can limit the damage caused by staining foods and drinks. Again, brushing after meals should help a lot. So does drinking water soon after consuming any of these foods.
Finally, a few fruits and vegetables are believed to actually help whiten teeth. Apples, pineapples, celery, cauliflower, and broccoli are all believed to have teeth-whitening properties. However, be aware that we are talking about whole fruit or vegetables, not juices which are typically very high in sugar and calories.
Elegant Dentistry: For a Smile Worth Celebrating
An outstanding dental office like Elegant Dentistry in Marina del Rey is an essential part of keeping your health and your smile intact. Our award-winning team offers preventive dentistry to preserve teeth, whitening and cosmetic dentistry to improve their appearance, and reconstructive dentistry with dental implants when teeth need to be replaced.
Elegant Dentistry is conveniently located on West Washington Boulevard in Marina del Rey. Our office is adjacent to Culver City, Venice, Mar Vista, and Playa del Rey and a very short car ride from Santa Monica and all of West Los Angeles. For more information, please call us at the phone number on your screen or by using the online form on our contact page.