Food plays a big part in our Christmas celebrations, adding excitement and an excuse to eat our favourite treats! Recent stats from Denplan, the UK’s leading dental payment provider, show that 74% of people consider themselves to have a good diet – but we all over-indulge at Christmas.
In fact last year’s dental emergencies peaked for Denplan patients around the festive season, seeing a whopping 1946 claims in January.
To help patients avoid any dental pain this Christmas here are some top tips on what to eat, as well as how to deal with a dental emergency, from Denplan’s chief dental officer, Roger Matthews.
He said: 'Christmas is a time to enjoy, and we all like to treat ourselves at this time of year, but because we are eating and drinking more than usual, we can put ourselves at risk of damaging our teeth, and the last thing you want is a dental emergency over the festive period.
'If you do damage a tooth, it’s always best to get it looked at as soon as possible, to avoid further damage or discomfort. Here are my top tips on foods that won’t harm your teeth and which ones to eat with care!'
Top five tooth-friendly foods!
1. Cheese! Christmas isn’t complete without a decent cheeseboard, so as you’re tucking into a chunk of cheddar you’ll be pleased to know that not only is it rich in calcium, which promotes healthy teeth, it also balances out the PH in your mouth which lessens the damaging effects of acid from a festive glass of wine on tooth enamel and helps kill bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease
2. We often have bowls of snacks lying about at Christmas, but instead of opting for crisps, why not opt for nuts instead? Peanuts (unsalted if possible) contain calcium and vitamin D, both vital for oral health as well as your general health. Walnuts, which are often used in puddings and cakes, also contain zinc fibre, folic acid, iron, thiamine, magnesium, vitamin E & B6, potassium and zinc – all of which play an important role in keeping our teeth and gums healthy
3. Christmas lunch is renowned for its abundance of vegetables. Broccoli and carrots in particular are great for your oral health as they contain vitamin A which help strengthens the tooth enamel
4. Crudités will promote good oral health as, because they are eaten raw, they massage your gums, which encourage blood flow, and clean your teeth too
5. The humble turkey provides us with a great source of protein, which is rich in phosphorus. This combines with calcium and vitamin D to make our teeth (and bones). By eating plenty of protein you will help reduce tooth decay and keep your teeth strong and healthy
Top five teeth rotters
1. Sweets, biscuits and cakes – although the endless supply of chocolate and puddings it so tempting, try to keep them to a minimum as sugars are a prime cause of the acidic biofilm which causes dental decay. Acid resulting from frequent consumption of refined sugar dissolves the minerals essential for healthy teeth. When you do indulge, its best to have sweets in one go after your meal, rather than picking throughout the day
2. Fizzy drinks – if you like a bit of fizz in your soft drinks or mixers why not opt for soda water. Fizzy drinks are loaded with sugar and even sugar-free or diet drinks are still acidic and in excess can cause tooth enamel to erode away. But, if you can’t resist them, use a straw as this will lessen direct contact with your teeth
3. Processed cereals – breakfast may not be the most important meal when it comes to the festive season, but if you’re looking to grab something quick and easy to set you up for the day try to avoid processed cereals as you’ll be amazed at how much sugar is hidden in these, much better to opt for porridge or bran-based cereals – or, better still eggs! Either clean your teeth before you eat or half an hour after, to avoid damaging your enamel
4. Crisps – cooked starch breaks down into component sugars – the main enemy for teeth. Why not opt for carbs low on the glycaemic index such as vegetable crisps instead?
5. Wine – we all love a glass of wine or two at Christmas, but white wine can be very acidic and contribute to enamel erosion, try drinking it just at your main meal, as drinking little and often is far worse than drinking once a day. Red wine can also increase the risk of staining, especially if you forget to brush your teeth as often as you should with the distractions of festive fun! If you are drinking red wine, try to remember to leave a gap before you brush your teeth to remove any stains
Roget Matthews added: 'However, if you do find yourself unlucky, falling over after a festive night out or cracking your tooth on your favourite Christmas sweets, here’s my step-by-step guide on what to do.'
What to do if a tooth is knocked out?
• Call your dentist immediately and book an emergency appointment, ideally within an hour of the incident as your tooth will have the best chance of surviving the trauma during this time
• Handle the knocked out tooth by the crown (the top), not by the root (the pointed part on the bottom) as touching the root can damage cells that are needed to re-attach the tooth to the bone
• Gently rinse the tooth in water to remove any dirt, but be careful not to scrub it. It is very important that the tooth doesn’t dry out – if you can, place the clean tooth in your mouth between the cheek and gum to keep it moist. Alternatively, wrap the tooth in a clean cloth and cover it with milk or a salty saline solution (the solution used for contact lenses)
• If a baby tooth is knocked out, don’t try to insert it back into the mouth. The patient should be seen as soon as possible to make sure that none of the tooth remains in the mouth
• How should I handle a chipped or fractured tooth?
• If you fracture a tooth, rinse your mouth with warm water and use an ice pack or cold compress to reduce any swelling. Take ibuprofen, not aspirin, for pain, as this is an anti-inflammatory
Book an appointment to see your dentist at the next most convenient time, depending on how much pain you’re in
Minor fractures and chips can be smoothed out by your dentist with a sandpaper-like disc, while larger ones may be fixed using restorative procedure
Denplan patient, Dawn Schier, added: 'One recent Christmas Eve most of one of my teeth fell out. I rang the dentist, who arranged that I could go to the surgery on Christmas morning. He did a wonderful job and I had a lovely Christmas lunch eating all the things that I didn’t think I could. Can you imagine how awful it would have been not to have been able to use Denplan's services on Christmas day? It temporarily sorted my tooth out and I had a lovely Christmas lunch! I went back after Christmas and had the tooth fixed permanently.'*
Denplan as approximately 1.8 million registered patients whose products include a 24-hour worldwide dental emergency cover. To find out more about how you can be covered this season visit www.denplan.co.uk.**
* All dentists have different emergency opening hours, please check with your practice
** Terms and conditions apply