3 ways to keep your teeth healthy during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.

The holidays with it’s parties, dinners, and celebrations often have a variety of foods available throughout the duration of the festivities. But this unending snacking and grazing puts your teeth at greater risk of decay since holiday desserts are normally loaded with heavy cream, sugar, and butter — everything that’s bad for your teeth. What’s a person with a sweet tooth to do when the sweet truffles and iced cupcakes come calling?

Choose your three favorite snacks and enjoy them during mealtime or right afterward. Saliva production increases during meals, which will help cancel out any acid produced in your mouth and also rinse out food particles. Another option is to have a healthy snack before the holiday party, such as fresh-cut veggies and whole-grain crackers paired with hummus. That way you won’t be so hungry before dinnertime and end up gobbling up more sweet treats than you intended.

Here are some other tips to help you and your family eat healthy but delicious food over the holidays:

1. Choose less sticky foods.

The thing about sticky foods like dried fruits and candied yams is that they tend to “stick” around on your teeth long after you’ve finished eating. And the longer these sweets stay on your teeth, the more you expose your enamel to the sugars, encouraging plaque buildup and increasing the likelihood of tooth decay.

Thankfully, there’s a happy middle ground where you and your kids can still enjoy the delicious treats of the holidays without having to calculate the damage it’s doing to your teeth. Gingerbread cookie recipes tend to have less sugar than their baked-good counterparts, making it a tooth-friendly option all around.

Cheese is also an excellent holiday snack choice when it comes to your teeth. It’s high in calcium, which the human body uses to keep teeth strong and healthy. Some kids may not like dark chocolate as much as the white or milky ones, but it’s often the lesser of two (three?) evils as it contains less sugar and has natural antioxidants that help fight off bacteria in the mouth.

2. No more eggnog.

What do the most common holiday drink staples, like eggnog, mulled wine, and hot chocolate have in common? Tons of sugar and enamel-wearing ingredients, which are not that great for your teeth! Store-bought eggnog and hot chocolate are notorious for having oodles of excess sugar, while mulled wine is a mixture of two things that are bad for your oral health: red wine and citrus. All of these ingredients will stick to your teeth and create acids that cause decay.

So what can you drink instead? If you skip the trip to the store, you can make healthier versions of your favorite drinks … and they won’t be spinach smoothies by any means. Follow this eggnog recipe that substitutes sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream with almond milk and uses raw honey instead of sugar. Vanilla chai tea is also a great holiday alternative for those with non-dairy diets.

For hot chocolate, make it sugar-free and top it off with a homemade whipped cream consisting of blended heavy whipping cream and a sugar-free liquid sweetener. Choose a dry white wine for your mulled wine instead of a red one and use only a dash of honey to make the drink more tooth-friendly.

3. Watch out for starch.

Perhaps one meal that loves to make an appearance on almost every American dinner table during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and pretty much any big holiday gathering in the winter is mashed potatoes. The downside to this holiday staple is that it consists mostly of starch, and cavity-causing bacteria love the sugar that makes up starch.

Instead of removing this crowd-favorite meal entirely, try these tips to limit the harm it does to your teeth. Cut the butter amount your recipe calls for in half and add in plain Greek yogurt. It will not only make the mashed potatoes creamier, but this ingredient will also mix with the plaque in your mouth and stick to your teeth, protecting your enamel from acids that cause decay.

You may also want to keep the skins on half of the potatoes you use. Potato skins contain calcium, which is a mineral needed to support the structure and hardiness of your teeth and bones. In lieu of adding more salt to your recipe, try adding garlic. It’s not only good for keeping vampires at bay but it also wards off a wide range of bacteria that can cause an imbalance in your oral environment and promote decay.

Fill up on smile tips during trips to see us.

During the holidays, like any other day, brush your teeth, avoid sugary foods as best as you can, and try to limit your snacking to mealtimes, but if you do slip, brush and floss your teeth again. Fill up on more smile tips from Dr. Jeff during your dental appointment, where you’ll also get a chance to share any concerns you may have about your holiday recipes. Until then, happy holidays!