Taking Care of Your Teeth This Holiday Season

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Thanksgiving signals the start of the holiday season leading up to Christmas and New Year’s Day. For most people and children, this also means a time of year to enjoy in holiday favorites, from turkey dinners with all the fixings to sweets, candies, cakes, pies, and other delectable delights.

Here at VanLaecken Orthodontics, we enjoy celebrating the holidays and offer the following tips and suggestions to help take care of your teeth.

Invisalign Care During the Holiday Season

Invisalign treatment requires you to take out your aligners whenever you eat, snack, or drink. It is essential to continue to do this throughout the holiday season and Christmas festivities. Leaving your aligners in can cause them to get stained, damaged, or broken.

In addition, while it can be tempting to just stop treatment and then start back up again after the New Year, it can cause major setbacks. The current set of aligners will not fit correctly and may require having new aligners created by your orthodontist.

Even skipping a few days at a time can create issues with your Invisalign treatment, so it is best to stick with your treatment plan throughout the holiday season and use these great tips:

  • Always bring along your aligner case for storage. Your aligners should never be wrapped in a napkin or just put into your pants pockets. By remembering to carry at least one case with you all the time, you don’t have to miss out on your favorite holiday foods and drinks.
  • Carry a travel oral care kit with you. Make sure you remember to bring along a toothbrush, toothpaste, and some floss whenever you head out for holiday and Christmas parties. This way, you can brush and floss your teeth after eating and drinking before putting your aligners back in.
  • Never put the aligners back in if you cannot brush and floss. There are food and beverage particles on your teeth and, if you put the aligners back on, you are trapping them in an environment where they can damage your teeth.
  • If you forgot your oral care kit, leave the aligners out until you can brush and floss. Aside from trapping food and beverage particles, putting your aligners back in without brushing or flossing can cause the aligners to take on bad breath odors and start to smell.
  • Be ready to make adjustments to your normal oral care during the holidays. You may already be used to brushing and flossing three to five times a day. During the holiday season, if you snack more in between meals, be prepared to brush and floss more often.
  • If you are traveling, pack extra aligner trays and keep your previous set of aligners. When you are away from home, you need to be prepared in case your current set of aligners gets damaged or you forget an aligner tray in a hotel. If one or both of your current aligners is damaged, you can put in your previous ones until you return home and can see your orthodontist.

Suggestions for Eating with Invisalign Aligners

  • Snack less: You don’t have to drastically change your eating habits with Invisalign. On the other hand, since you need to remove your aligners each time you eat, you might find it more convenient to pass up frequent, light eating in favor of less frequent, heavier meals. Instead of reaching for that peppermint candy cane or hard sugar cookie, wait until mealtime. You’ll have a better appetite, and you’ll pass up all those empty calories. You will also spare your teeth from contact with all that sugar.
  • Eat softer foods: If Thanksgiving and the holidays occur during a time when you have just switched to a new set of aligners, the new fit might cause your teeth to be a bit tender. Pass up the turkey drumstick and have a slice of tender white meat.Load up on the mashed potatoes and stuffing, and enjoy a dollop of chocolate pudding for dessert.
  • Minimize eating discomfort: When it is time to start using a new set of aligners, our orthodontists recommend putting them in at bedtime. Your teeth will have several hours to adjust to the new fit, and you’ll be ready to enjoy that holiday meal. You also might want to take an anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medication an hour before eating to relieve any tenderness.

General Care During the Holidays

Whether you have Invisalign, braces, or no orthodontic appliances to worry about, remember the following tips to keep your teeth and gums healthy all season long:

  • Monitor how many sugary snacks and treats you are eating. Sure, grandmother’s Christmas cookies are always a favorite, but you don’t have to eat the entire batch she made in one sitting. Enjoy a few cookies now, brush and floss afterward, and save some for later.
  • Eat and drink in moderation. For many people, the holidays and Christmas mean plenty of “cheat” days where they will want to eat and drink as much as they want. Yet, you will want to maintain some control on holiday “cheat” days because there will be so many foods and drinks you will want to sample. Not only can you avoid feeling bloated, but it is also easier to keep up on brushing and flossing when you eat and drink moderately.
  • Your teeth are not appliances or tools. Just like those of us with braces, you should never use your teeth for anything other than eating. You can crack, chip, and damage your teeth. If you accidentally do, there are orthodontic services that can help restore your teeth.
  • Drink plenty of water. Water will help remove food and beverage particles from your teeth and will help keep you hydrated. You can also rinse with water after snacks and meals before you brush and floss, to help pre-clean the teeth.
  • Keep plenty of guest toothbrushes on hand. If you are entertaining family, friends, and guests in your home, make sure you stock up on extra toothbrushes so everyone can practice good oral care throughout the holiday and Christmas season.

Just because the holiday season is upon us, it does not mean you cannot enjoy all of your holiday and seasonal favorite foods and beverages. By keeping up on your oral care and orthodontic treatment and making a few alterations to brush and floss more often, you will have a fun and exciting time and not have to worry about damaging your teeth.

Sources: “Taking Care of Your Teeth This Holiday and Christmas Season,” Labbe Family Orthodontics; “Tips to Enjoy Thanksgiving with Invisalign Braces,” L’Tanya Joy Bailey