Holiday Foods to Avoid that are Harmful to Your Teeth & Gums

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The holiday season can be a tempting excuse to throw sensible food and drink choices out the window and indulge in some less-than-healthy treats. Decadent sweet treats and delicious savories can be all too tempting over the holidays, but some treats could be doing more harm to your teeth than you may realize!

Whether you’re partial to one too many festive sugar cookies or love to overindulge in chocolate, it’s important to think about your oral health if you want to avoid a not-so-festive trip to the dentist. Here are eight popular holiday foods that you should avoid this holiday season to keep your teeth & gums healthy:

Sugar Cookies

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With ‘sugar’ in the name of this popular holiday treat, it’s unlikely to come as much of a surprise that sugar cookies are bad for your teeth and gums. Overindulging in sugar cookies over the holiday season could speed up tooth decay.

Eating sugar cookies throughout the day, or any sugary snack regularly, will continuously expose your teeth to sugar, which can cause the enamel on your teeth to dissolve. Eventually, this erosion can lead to cavities – a very unwelcome holiday surprise!


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Packed full of sugar, dairy and alcohol, Eggnog may be a popular holiday beverage but if you drink too much your teeth certainly won’t be feeling very festive.

The high sugar content of eggnog makes it bad for your teeth, but once you factor in the alcohol content – which makes the mouth very dry, prevents saliva production and causes sugar residue to stay in the mouth – drinking too much eggnog becomes a recipe for disaster.

Not only could too much eggnog leave you with a bad case of tooth decay, but also bad breath!

Candy Canes

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Candy canes, like most hard candies, are absolutely terrible for your teeth. While their small size, attractive red and white stripes and minty flavor may make them a fairly innocent looking sweet treat, candy canes are all sugar, which is never going to mean good things for your teeth and gums.

However, the worst thing about candy canes isn’t the sugar, but rather the way they’re eaten. By sucking sugar canes, you’re exposing your mouth to sugar for a long time, which greatly increases the risk of cavities. Eating a sugar cane is essentially like giving your teeth a very long sugar bath, which as you can imagine, isn’t great for oral health!

Between the high sugar content and the hardness of the candy, which can result in a chipped tooth or two, candy canes are a definite holiday treat to avoid.

Milk Chocolate

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Chocolate is a holiday staple, but it could also fast track your next dental visit if you’re not careful with how much you eat. Just like with candy canes and cookies, the problem with chocolate is its sugar content, which when consumed regularly and in high quantities can cause cavities.

Consuming chocolate in the form of hot cocoa can also be damaging to your teeth and gums. Not only is the drink high in sugar but the added dairy can turn this delicious treat into a serious case of bad breath.

Dark chocolate, which is naturally lower in sugar and dairy, is much better for your teeth than the light chocolate varieties.

Dried Fruit

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The sticky texture and sugar content of many different types of dried fruit make this seemingly healthy snack very problematic for your teeth. Unlike fresh fruit where the sugar is quickly washed away with saliva, dried fruit can get stuck in your teeth, where it’ll keep the bacteria in your mouth fed for a prolonged amount of time.

If you don’t rinse your mouth and brush thoroughly after eating dried fruit, then it’s a snack to avoid if you also want to avoid cavities.

Cranberry Sauce

Holiday Foods to avoid

Cranberry sauce looks much healthier than a candy cane or a bar of chocolate, but it could leave you with very unpleasant breath. That small bowl of cranberry sauce on your Thanksgiving dinner table contains artificial products and a lot of corn syrup, which feed the bacteria that causes bad breath.

With all the sugar in cranberry sauce, it’s also best to avoid the sauce to reduce the chances of tooth decay over the holidays. However, cranberry juice with no added sugar is a great holiday beverage as it helps to fight cavities!


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You may think that stuffing is a pretty safe bet for a holiday treat that doesn’t harm your teeth, but as a sticky food that’s very starchy, stuffing can actually be quite damaging to your oral health. 

The bread in some stuffing recipes can make this delectable holiday staple very unhealthy for your teeth. The starch in bread will break down into sugar as you chew it and will contribute to the development of cavities if it gets stuck in your teeth.

Caramel Popcorn

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Caramel popcorn is another sticky and sugary snack that it’s better to avoid if you want your teeth and gums to stay healthy over the holidays. If the caramel gets stuck in your teeth, then it can accelerate tooth decay.

Another risk with popcorn is unpopped kernels. Biting an unpopped kernel could fracture your tooth and require an emergency trip to the dentist, which is a festive outing that nobody is going to enjoy!

Keep Your Smile Healthy with a Holiday Checkup at Sheehan Dental in Palos Park

Just because some holiday foods are bad for your teeth & gums, it doesn’t mean that you can’t treat yourself in moderation or indulge in healthier treats, like cheese, nuts and turkey. During a holiday checkup at Sheehan Dental, you can ask your dentist for advice on how to reduce the impact that harmful foods have on your teeth and how to care for your teeth and gums over the holidays.

It’s our job at Sheehan Dental to help you keep your smile looking bright and beautiful through to the New Year! For more information about routine tooth and gum exams, professional cleaning and holiday dental care in Palos Park, get in touch with Sheehan Dental today.