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Christmas & Teeth

The Christmas season can be a challenge for teeth. 

For many years, winter seemed to bring the challenges of hockey and what seemed like the inevitable broken and dislodged teeth that come from an aggressive battle.  However, with the much more widespread use of mouth guards and even superior custom fitted mouth guards and face shields, hockey injuries have become much less common.  Congratulations to the hockey leagues and players and parents for making this reduction of hockey mouth injuries become a reality right here in Kenora.

That being said, we have seen some interesting injuries during the holidays over the years.  My favourite seemed to peak about three seasons ago.  Grannie and many others bake so many goodies in the Christmas season that in order to keep things fresh, the cookies and such have to be put in the freezer or as Christmas gets closer in the shed out back.  All who venture into the realm of the forbidden cookies and butter tarts and get caught are banished to the outer reaches of the family until the infraction fades into the fuzzy past.  There are always those of us who choose to live dangerously (in more ways than one) and sneak a cookie or two from the bottomless buckets in the freezer or shed.  Three years ago around Christmas, at my office we saw no less than five overzealous husbands and sons who successfully lightened the cookie bucket without being discovered only to break their teeth on frozen cookies.  It’s so sad to successfully complete the acquisition phase of the caper only to be caught because a tooth gives way.   My advice to those inclined to make sure Grannie’s latest culinary masterpieces are fit for the rest of the family is to put the cookies into your pocket until they soften up a bit before subjecting your teeth to them.

Toboggans also have a way of shortening and sharpening teeth.  Christmas nearly always brings at least a couple of toboggan injuries to our office.  That same mouth guard you use in basketball or hockey would reduce the chance of injury dramatically when using a toboggan.  Again, the injury usually doesn’t seem to be received in the way one would think.  It seems usually the way a tooth breaks on a toboggan is when cousin Billy’s tooth bangs against the bald spot on uncle Fred’s head.  Billy’s tooth chips and Fred’s head looks like he is moonlighting as a bouncer at a bar.  

Probably more common at the holiday time of year is the more insidious damage of dental plaque left to slowly dissolve tooth structure as a person sleeps because everyone had so much fun until so late that the toothbrush and floss got left unused.  Remember that sleep is really hard on teeth because salivary flow is low.  At night, the bacteria that make up dental plaque multiply rapidly without being disturbed.  The most effective time to eliminate plaque from the teeth is in the evening just before going to bed.  Brushing with a fluoride containing toothpaste or other fluoride preparation, spitting into the sink, and not rinsing, flossing, then going directly to bed will maximize the remineralization (tooth building) capacity of the fluoride.  If this is followed up with a thorough brushing and flossing in the morning shortly after waking up, you can turn night time from a time of dissolution of tooth components into a time of rebuilding tooth components.

Have a wonderful time with your family and friends this Christmas season!  Maybe Uncle Pete would like that electric toothbrush for a present.  Above all, be safe and be good to each other (and your teeth). 

- This article was written by Dr. Mike Christensen and published in the Daily Miner and News, and Enterprise. Local Kenora News Publicatons (1998-2006)

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