Most of us know that certain foods are not good for our teeth – foods that are too hard and/or have too much sugar, for example. But did you know that the beverages we drink can affect our oral health as well? With the holiday season right around the corner, this is a great time to take a closer look at some of our favorite seasonal drinks and identify which are tooth-friendly and which are not.
- Eggnog – Many people look forward to enjoying this tasty beverage over the holidays. Unfortunately, eggnog is not the best choice for your teeth and gums. Not only is eggnog high in sugar, it’s also high in fat, and that fatty consistency helps the sugar to remain on your teeth for long periods of time. That increases your risk for developing cavities. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to modify eggnog to make it tooth-healthy, so this is one beverage that you should only enjoy on rare occasions, and make sure you brush your teeth afterward to remove the sugar residue.
- Mulled wine/red wine – This is one of several hot drinks that are often enjoyed around the holidays. But the acid in wine – whether you drink it mulled or otherwise – erodes the enamel layer of your teeth. And red wine in particular is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to staining teeth. Rather than sipping on wine, try a flavored sparkling water instead, or even combine a small amount of low-sugar fruit juice combined with sparkling water. Fruit juice is also acidic and often contains sugar, but combining a small amount with a sparkling water cuts down on the sugar and acidity and still allows you to enjoy a festive beverage.
- Latte – Pumpkin spice latte in particular has become one of the most popular of all holiday beverages over the past few years. Here’s the bad news – latte in general (pumpkin spice or otherwise) is usually loaded with sugar. In fact, a large latte from your local coffee shop could have as much as 50 grams of sugar! But there are ways to make lattes healthier. Ask for nonfat milk, or almond or soy milk, for example – all of which are very low fat but still high in tooth-healthy calcium. And request sugar-free flavoring, such as mocha or peppermint, so you can still enjoy a festive holiday beverage without sacrificing your oral health.
- Hot chocolate – Finally, some good news! Although the sugar and fat content of a typical hot chocolate served at a café or coffee shop isn’t exactly tooth-friendly, you can easily modify this holiday favorite and end up with a much healthier alternative. First, choose dark chocolate, which helps slow down the growth of bad bacteria inside your mouth. Use only a minimum amount of sugar, or a sugar substitute such as stevia, for example. And use low-fat milk, soy milk or almond milk, all of which are lower in fat yet still high in calcium.
The holidays are a wonderful time to enjoy your favorite beverages with family and friends. Fortunately, most of the most popular holiday drinks can also be tooth-friendly with just a few small modifications. So drink up, and enjoy!