(ARA) - Millions of Americans will not be smiling this holiday season - and not because they discovered coal in their stockings. They will be the teens and adults whose teeth and/or braces fall victim to the hard, sticky, chewy and gummy treats that make the holidays so yummy . . . and perilous to oral health.
"The week after Halloween is one of the busiest times of year for orthodontists," says Dr. Gib Snow, a Los Angeles-based orthodontist. "Emergency visits spike as we see children, teens and even adults who have suffered dental injury or damaged metal braces as a result of eating candy and other treats. In fact, many treats that we commonly enjoy throughout the holiday season can be harmful to our teeth."
If your overall dental health is good, and you practice good oral hygiene, you can probably safely indulge in some holiday treats as long as you do so in moderation. However, if you have a history of breaking or weak teeth, have a lot of fillings or crowns, or wear metal braces, you may want to take some precautions to protect your teeth this holiday season.
Dr. Snow offers some simple tips:
- Try to avoid treats that are sticky (like taffy), extremely hard (peanut brittle), chewy (caramel) or crunchy (mixed nuts). These can break teeth, pull out fillings and compromise crowns and other forms of dental work.
- Stick with soft treats that melt in your mouth, such as peanut butter cups, chocolate kisses or - better yet - thinly sliced fruit. As with all high-fat, sugary foods, be sure to practice moderation, and brush and floss teeth after indulging.
- When you finish your holiday cocktail, or your teen polishes off a soft drink, don't chew on the ice. It can damage tooth enamel and metal braces.
- After indulging in holiday treats, brush and floss thoroughly. Adults who will be enjoying lots of caffeinated beverages for the holidays may want to consider using a teeth-whitening toothpaste.
- Consider replacing metal braces with clear, removable braces like Invisalign and Invisalign Teen. These virtually invisible aligners gradually straighten teeth without metal braces, and can make the holidays a bit easier for teens (and adults) because the aligners can be removed to enjoy holiday treats. After eating, wearers brush and floss, then pop the clear aligners back in place.
Teens and adults who wear metal braces are particularly at risk during the holidays, Dr. Snow points out. Many of the treats they will enjoy during holiday parties - like caramel apples, popcorn and sticky toffee - don't mix well with metal braces. Parents should consider some additional precautions:
- Candy canes are a holiday tradition, but braces-wearers should really cross them off their holiday list altogether. Biting into this hard candy can spell disaster for metal braces.
- Replace high-risk treats with safer options, like soft or liquid treats, fresh fruit, smoothies or milkshakes.
- Be especially vigilant about dental hygiene. Food trapped in, under or behind metal braces can cause staining and tooth decay.
Teens and adults considering orthodontic treatment should weigh all the alternatives and look for options that will best suit their lifestyle, Dr. Snow advises. Alternatives to metal braces, like Invisalign and Invisalign Teen, replace traditional wire and brackets and are equally as effective for straightening teeth, according to Snow.
"When weighing treatment options, families need to consider the many impacts of orthodontic care over the entire course of treatment, which averages about a year," says Snow. "Because clear braces are removable, there are no food restrictions and no emergency appointments for broken brackets. These can be significant factors for many families whether it's the holiday season or not. "
For more tips on oral care during the holidays and alternatives to braces, visit invisalignteen.com.