Most of us look forward to the holidays as a time to indulge in festive sweet treats that we might not allow ourselves to eat very often during other times of the year. Family gatherings, workplace celebrations and holiday parties all often bring with them a huge spread of sweet, sticky treats that can be hard to resist. Each year, much emphasis is placed on how to avoid packing on the pounds during this time of year. But, when it comes to enjoying holiday snacks, it’s not just our waistlines that we need to be watching!

Without fail, in the days and weeks following the holidays dentists and orthodontists see a marked uptick in the number of client cavities and broken braces brackets treated in their offices. That’s right, teeth can be a huge casualty of the holidays! Luckily, there are plenty of seasonal treats that are both delicious and healthy for your pearly whites. The team at Pavlik Orthodontics has put together this list of “Naughty and Nice” snacks to help you make better choices for your teeth as you enjoy this special time of year.

First, some foods to avoid!

Candy Canes – While Christmas and candy canes may seem to go hand in hand, they are among the worst holiday treats when it comes to your teeth. Sucking on them means long exposure time to sugar that increases cavity risk. And crunching on them means getting them stuck in the nooks and crannies of your teeth. They are also absolutely horrible for braces, and often cause broken brackets. Overall, it’s just best to stay away from candy canes if you’d like to avoid a trip to the dentist or orthodontist.

Fruit Cake – If you’re one of the (possibly few?) holiday party-goers who actually love this traditional confection, then sorry to break it to you, but fruit cake is terrible for your teeth! The high sugar content and bits of gummy dried fruit are a recipe for disaster. We suggest leaving this one on the table at your next holiday gathering.

White Wine – This one may come as a surprise because people think of red wine staining the mouth. In fact, white wine is actually worse for your teeth! While red wine, in moderation, is antibacterial and can help prevent tooth decay by killing bacteria, white wine has a high acidic content that can erodes tooth enamel. So, ask the bartender for a glass of red at the holiday work party!

Caramel Corn – Yet another top offender for getting stuck in teeth and braces, this holiday favorite (and, really, any treat containing caramel) is definitely on the Naughty List. On top of the dangers from the sugary, sticky caramel, the popcorn kernels make this treat a double offender. For the sake of your teeth, choose something else to snack on.

So, what holiday treats are okay for teeth?

Dark Chocolate – While white and milk chocolate treats typically contain a ton of sugar, dark chocolate is equally delicious and carries a higher cocoa content and less sugar. Additionally, the natural antioxidants present in dark chocolate can help fight off bacteria in the mouth.

Cheese – Who doesn’t love cheese?! While it should probably be eaten in moderation due to its high fat content, cheese is an excellent holiday snack choice when it comes to your teeth. Cheese is high in calcium, which your body uses to keep teeth strong and healthy. Plus, cheese has been proven to lower the pH balance in your mouth, which can help prevent cavities. So, at your next party, feel free to tell your friends to pass the cheese board!

Mixed Nuts – Those with braces may want to take caution when snacking on nuts, otherwise, though, they are a great snack option for healthy teeth. Nuts contain nutrients such as iron and magnesium, and they also contain calcium to help strengthen teeth.

Vegetable Platters – This option may seem like a poor substitute for cake, but at many holiday parties simple veggie platters are amped up a notch with the inclusion of more exotic vegetables and delicious dips. So, give the vegetable plate a chance! Plus, vegetables are highly fibrous and eating them naturally removes plaque.