Learning how to care for your teeth without missing out on this season’s celebrations.

There’s no point denying it: We all eat a lot of sweets during the holidays. After all, delicious foods are a huge part of most celebrations. In some respects, it doesn’t feel like the holidays until we’ve had our favorite foods and drinks. Indulging in delicious treats like sweet potato casserole, gingerbread cookies, eggnog, and hot chocolate is an ideal way to get into the holiday spirit. If we’re not careful, though, these treats can do a number on our teeth, leading to a plaque and tartar buildup. But there’s good news! Even without a holiday miracle, this buildup is far from inevitable. If you know how to care for your teeth properly, you can enjoy every aspect of this holiday season while still preventing a buildup of plaque and tartar on your teeth.

What is tartar and how does it affect your teeth?

Tartar is plaque, which is a film of bacteria that has hardened and bonded to the surface of your teeth either above or below your gum line. This happens when minerals are deposited into plaque over time, mineralizing it and allowing it to form that strong bond to the surface of your teeth. It can have a significant impact on your oral health because it doesn’t just contain bacteria—it also provides a better surface for more bacteria to stick to. As a result, it can irritate your gums and lead to oral health issues like cavities and gum disease. Tartar is also porous, so it stains incredibly easily from the foods and drinks you consume. Since it sits on your teeth, stained tartar makes your teeth appear yellow or brown, and smoking can even cause black tartar on teeth. This impacts the dental cosmetics, or appearance, of your smile in addition to its health.

Are there tips you can use to prevent tartar?

Tartar isn’t something you can safely remove on your own. That’s why it’s so important to make sure plaque doesn’t build up and sit on your teeth.

Once it has formed on your teeth, tartar can only be properly removed by your dental team. As a result, preventing tartar from forming in the first place is the best thing you can do to protect your teeth and gums from its effects. Thankfully, there are plenty of things you can do to prevent tartar buildup in the first place!

Practice proper oral hygiene.

Plaque can harden into tartar very quickly, only taking between 24 and 72 hours to form. Because of this, the first—and most important—step you can take to prevent tartar buildup on your teeth is to establish and stick to a good oral hygiene routine. This should include brushing your teeth for at least two minutes twice a day, flossing at least once a day, and using mouthwash every day. Cleaning your teeth breaks plaque up before it can harden into tartar and helps limit the buildup of plaque in the first place, so it’s a vital part of your daily routine. Even though it might not seem like a big deal to skip it occasionally, sticking to this routine can have a tangible, positive effect on your oral health.

Try an electric toothbrush.

Electric toothbrushes are incredibly helpful in doing a good job brushing your teeth. They clean teeth and gums better than manual toothbrushes because they vibrate or rotate as you brush your teeth, creating more micro-movements in each stroke. They often have a host of other beneficial features, such as timers to ensure that you’re brushing your teeth for a full two minutes or sensors that stop the brush’s movements if you press down too hard on your toothbrush. This helps you do a better job of brushing your teeth while also preventing overbrushing, which can also be harmful to your oral health by causing enamel erosion and tooth sensitivity. While electric toothbrushes have a reputation for being expensive, there are many budget-friendly options nowadays, making them a much more feasible option for the average person. With so many benefits, an electric toothbrush is usually worth trying!

Eat teeth-cleaning foods and use good eating habits.

The foods you eat have a tangible impact on your oral health, so part of protecting your teeth from tartar buildup and other oral health concerns is building a healthy diet. A healthy diet should include balanced amounts of lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, dairy, and whole grains. But good eating habits also include how often you eat, not just what you eat. The acidity in your mouth needs time to recover between meals, so it’s best to stick to one larger snack each day instead of snacking constantly. It’s also smart to pick healthier snacks, especially crunchy fruits or vegetables like apples, carrots, and celery. Since they’re crunchy, these foods actually clean your teeth while you eat them by actively scraping plaque off as you chew. This doesn’t mean that you have to stop eating your favorite foods—not at all! It’s simply best to eat sugary or carbohydrate-rich foods like chips during your mealtime instead of as a standalone snack.

During the holidays, these tips might sound like they’re a little harder to stick to. It’s pretty easy with a few quick adjustments, though! Try preparing healthier appetizers and putting away most of your holiday dishes after a certain time, leaving out only healthy snack or appetizer-type options. This takes away the temptation to eat less healthy foods but leaves options open if people get a little hungry while they’re socializing. Plus, fruits are less likely to cause that infamous afternoon energy lag, giving you and your guests plenty of energy to keep the celebrations going.

How can you remove tartar at home?

If you already have tartar on your teeth, you might find yourself Googling something along the lines of, “how to remove tartar from teeth without dentist.” Unfortunately, the only safe method to remove a buildup of tartar is to visit your dental team for a professional cleaning. This is because many at-home remedies to remove tartar involve acidic or abrasive materials that can damage your tooth enamel if they’re applied too often or for too long.

Schedule your dental hygiene appointment.

Even during the holidays, preventing tartar buildup is simple and incredibly easy to work into your daily routine, allowing you to enjoy celebrating without worrying about your teeth. If you do develop tartar, though, you can schedule an appointment with your dentist to have it removed. If you have any questions about tartar buildup and how to prevent or eliminate it, feel free to schedule a consultation with your Bee Cave dentist at any time.

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