It’s a great time of year; the Tulip Festival has arrived and many are planning vacations in the weeks or months ahead. Unfortunately, oral hygiene habits often also take a vacation when we get out of our normal routines as we are out and about eating, drinking and having fun. Therefore, I’m going to use the Staying Healthy article this week to discuss strategies to minimize setbacks in our oral health, whether attending a festival or taking a vacation.
My assumption is most who will read this article are local and will likely attend the Tulip Festival this week. Therefore, the first area of discussion is having a plan while at a festival, amusement park, or other event where food is prevalent. There are two areas of planning that can be helpful: when and how often you will eat, drink and snack and how you will clean your teeth and gums.
Half the fun of a festival is the good food such as poffertjes, cotton candy, or shaved ice. The recommendations for eating processed foods, sweets and sugary drinks can be applied to a day at the festival just like a day at home. The key is to limit the number of times you intake any sugars if possible, but if you feel like indulging by snacking all day long, there are a few options to minimize the damage.
The simplest option is to keep some sugar free gum with you. After every time you eat or drink, chew a piece of gum which will stimulate saliva and neutralize the acidity while helping to remove sugars from the surface of your teeth. Even better is to find a sugar free gum that has Xylitol in it. Xylitol is a sugar substitute which has been shown decrease the activity of bacteria and thus decrease the risk for cavities.
If you don’t have gum around, another simple but less effective option is to carry a bottle of water with you and make sure you swish water around your mouth after eating or drinking.
Not the simplest, but the best option is to carry a brush, toothpaste, and or mouthwash with you. A simple way to carry them is in a ziplock bag or you can buy plastic carriers. This is a great option whether at a festival, on vacation, or in day to day places such as school or work. Just having an extra brush with a travel size toothpaste or a small bottle of mouthwash can greatly reduce the risk of cavities. Every time you use toothpaste or mouthwash with fluoride you decrease the acidity and coat your teeth with cavity protection to counter the acid producing bacteria in your mouth.
After your day of fun, make sure to thoroughly brush and floss your teeth and if available, use a fluoride mouthwash. This will help prevent further damage overnight and help balance the risks from all the snacking that day.
The advice in this article isn’t complicated as I find simple solutions and ideas to be the most likely to be used. Enjoy the festival and vacation season and don’t let your oral care take a vacation – the cavity causing bacteria never take a day or night off!