Many Christians observe Lent, a six-week period of fasting, moderation, and discipline. Some people give up a particular item for lent, perhaps by skipping their morning Starbucks run, abstaining from alcohol, or giving up empty carbohydrates. Others follow a more specific diet, avoiding meat on Fridays and fasting on certain holidays, such as Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. You can also observe Lent simply by trying to avoid excess in your diet and activities. The Lenten season is a wonderful time to reflect on your life, improve yourself, and be grateful for what you have. Exercising moderation can also be excellent for your oral and dental health. As you might know, Lent concluded last week with the celebration of Easter, but you shouldn’t let the end of this holiday stop you from taking care of your teeth. Below, we provide our tips for preserving a healthy smile as Lent comes to a close.
Ease Back In To Sweets
After quitting chocolates, candies, or other treats for weeks, you’ll probably want to get right back into your sugar habit once Lent is over. However, overindulging your cravings could leave you more vulnerable to decay and gum disease. You’re not the only one who loves candy; the bacteria in your mouth do, too. As they feed on debris and residue from sugary snacks, they produce acids that can wear away your enamel, creating cavities. Plaque, the film that bacteria thrive in, can also get below your gum line and cause periodontal infection.
So how can you have a little sweet fun without undoing the dental benefits of Lent? In her Psychology Today article This is Your Brain When You Give Up Sugar For Lent, Jordan Gaines Lewis points out that sugar can actually be addictive and you’ll likely have reduced your tolerance for it after avoiding it for the 46 days of this holiday. The candies and sodas you used to love will probably taste extra-sweet after Lent, so you should take advantage of this and consume less. You will probably rebuild your candy habit over time, but the slower, the better, as far as your teeth and gums are concerned.
As you begin to introduce sugar back into your diet, you can also follow these tips to prevent the occasional sweet from causing dental health issues:
- Avoid sour, sticky candies and sodas. Since acid breaks down your enamel, eating sour treats compounds your risk for cavities. In addition, gummy candies can adhere more easily to your teeth. The carbonation in sodas can also harm your enamel, in addition to covering your teeth with sweet, syrupy liquid.
- Try xylitol products. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener with the added bonus of being proven to reduce your risk for decay. If you want to appease your cravings without damaging your teeth, try xylitol candies or lozenges. You can also chew xylitol gum to help clean your teeth.
- Drink plenty of water. This helps rinse residue off your teeth and stimulates your saliva flow, which can also fight caries.
- Brush your teeth at least twice per day and floss at least once.
- Attend your biannual dental exams and cleanings. This allows Dr. Armstrong and our team members to teach you better hygiene habits and monitor your mouth for any cavities or infections before they worsen.
Limit Your Snacking
The idea of snacking might become even more appealing after you’ve been fasting and eating a more limited diet, but try to keep this habit to a minimum. Eating throughout the day means your teeth and gums are constantly exposed to debris and substances that can form plaque and feed bacteria. Try to eat several larger meals at specific times. If you must have a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, swish with water after you’re finished, chew xylitol gum, or better yet brush your teeth. Obviously, the snack you choose is also important; carrot sticks are a much better choice than cake.
Keep Eating Fish
People who avoid eating meat on Fridays during Lent are typically still permitted to eat seafood, so many Lent observers enjoy fish on these days. While you can go back to steak, pork, and chicken after the Lenten season concludes, continuing to eat the occasional fish filet can improve your oral health. Fish oils contain Omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce your risk for gum disease by between 20 and 30 percent. One of the most common effects of periodontal disease is swollen gum tissue, and Omega-3s can reduce inflammation to keep your mouth healthier and limit uncomfortable symptoms. In addition to getting your Omega-3s straight from the source, you can take fish oil supplements to boost your oral health.
Experience the Dental Benefits of Lent in Every Season
Eating a more moderate diet and cutting back on sweets can help your mouth look and feel better year-round. To learn more about how to improve your oral health and preserve the positive effects of Lent, contact Craig Armstrong, D.D.S. today.