The season of love is upon us. Pop into the drugstore and the greeting card aisle is pink, red, and glittery. Diamond commercials are inescapable and if you haven’t ordered flowers, yet, what are you waiting for? But the classic sign of Valentine’s Day, the universal sign of true love, is the heart-shaped box of chocolates. Rich and sugary, the treasure trove of affection wrapped in a bow means someone is sweet on us and that’s what Valentine’s Day is all about.
Now, let’s be clear. I’m not saying you have to give the box of chocolates back and say, “Sorry, my dentist says sugar is really bad for my teeth.” However, it’s my responsibility, my duty really, to remind you of what sugar does to your smile longterm and this is as good a time as any.
So, let’s review the basics while I have your attention.
WHY IS SUGAR A BIG DEAL?
Tooth decay happens because of the bacteria that feeds on sugars from food (like Valentine’s Day candy) and drinks. That bacteria is plaque. Plaque sticks to your teeth and produces acids that will eat away at the enamel on your teeth. That’s a big deal.
WHAT IS ENAMEL?
The enamel on your teeth is the hardest and most highly mineralized substance in your body. It covers the outer layer of each tooth and it is the most visible part of the tooth. It’s a crucial part of your smile.
SUGAR + ENAMEL
If you watch how much sugar you eat and how you take care of your teeth, you will maintain a healthy mouth and smile. Here are a few easy ways to keep your smile (and your Valentine) healthy:
- Chew sugar-free gum between meals. Chewing gum boosts saliva production up to 10 times the normal flow. Saliva helps strengthen teeth with important minerals.
- Drink more water throughout the day, if you have low saliva volume or dry mouth.
- Use fluoride toothpaste.
A Sugar 911
Some chocolates have almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, and/or peanuts hidden inside and while it probably won’t happen, there’s the potential to crack a tooth. It’s not exactly a romantic way to spend the holiday, so know what to do.
If you suffer a fractured tooth, call your dentist ASAP for an emergency appointment. These steps will help with the pain and swelling:
- Clean your mouth out by gently rinsing thoroughly with warm water.
- If the fracture is caused by facial trauma, apply a cold compress to the area to minimize any swelling.
- Take acetaminophen (not aspirin) according to the packaging directions to alleviate pain.
- Never apply a painkiller (like Orajel) to the gum because it can burn the gum tissue.
Have your box of chocolates (and eat them safely), enjoy the holiday, and then get back to your healthy routine until the next sugary holiday.