The season of pumpkin spice has passed and the Christmas carols are upon us. The Holidays of 2020 might look very different–if there are elementary school music programs, the little angel voices will be muffled behind masks, online shopping will be more popular, and stockings might be stuffed with toilet paper and hand sanitizer. But, one thing will be the same:
It will be cold outside.
That cheered you right up, I’ll bet.
Winter is coming and that means cozy socks, hot chocolate, and cluttered mudrooms. The cold air can be a challenge for us–it dries our skin, chaps our lips, and can sometimes just make us downright grumpy unless you are one of those people that likes shoveling snow. If that’s the case, please give us a call. We can make your day.
The cold weather is also tough on one other pretty important part of your body: your mouth
Cold sores are caused by a virus, not cold weather, but winter can make them worse. The dry winter air can leave lips vulnerable to an outbreak of sores, but the warm air inside can cause problems, too. We are in and out of cold and warm temperatures in the winter, and those drastic temperature shifts can cause stress to the body. Winter isn’t generally known for lots of sunshine, and low levels of vitamin D may weaken an immune system that you desperately need to fight off cold sores.
This isn’t big news, but it is a big reality. Our lips dry out in the winter air, we lick our lips, the salty nature of our saliva dries out our lips. . . it is a vicious cycle. Chapped lips can range from sort of annoying to downright painful if your lips crack or split. There is a reason why people stash lip balm in cars, pockets, and various drawers.
If winter is a season where you get stressed, then canker sores might be on the rise. This has less to do with the weather and more to do with the stress that sometimes accompanies the wintery season. Shopping, planning, avoiding a pandemic, and more can up the stress level, which signals canker sores to pop up. The winter foods also take some blame. Cold means comfort foods, and Christmas means cookies. The sugary foods that surround us in the winter holiday season create an environment perfect for a crop of canker sores.
A dry mouth isn’t just uncomfortable, it can be unhealthy. Saliva keeps things moving along in the mouth, and a dry mouth is an environment where cavities can grow. Our mouths dry out in the winter more because we have a tendency to have stuffy noses in the winter, which means we have to breathe through our mouths, drying them out.
The stress and foods we eat to avoid the stress can weaken the immune system, which leaves the gumline vulnerable to inflammation or infection. Ouch.
Man, this keeps getting worse! Don’t worry, we are almost done. The cold air can also be hard on teeth. The back and forth in temperatures can cause “thermal stress.” (As if we need a new kind of stress!) This stress can cause tiny cracks in your teeth, exposing their sensitive side, which isn’t as comforting as it sounds.
While we are on the topic of stress, one way people deal with that stress is to clench their jaw or grind their teeth. Many people do this at night without even knowing it, and it can wear down enamel and cause cracks. Plus, it’s chilly outside, and that’s one more thing that can cause us to clench our jaws. The cold can make our teeth chatter or lead us to clench them together in a vain attempt to warm up.
We have painted a pretty bleak picture of your mouth in winter. But, all hope is not lost! There are ways to combat the challenges that winter brings. Read on for tips from the dentists at our West Haven and Layton offices to keep your mouth healthy and happy all winter long.
Baby, it’s cold outside–so wear a coat. . . and gloves. . . and a hat. . . and maybe a scarf. Yes, it is annoying, but bundling up will help keep your core body temperature where it belongs. This means your jaw can relax and your body can save energy for your immune system instead of trying to maintain that body temp where it is supposed to be.
Eat Your Veggies
Yes, the cookies are delicious. And we have all gotten pretty good at quarantine baking. But, sugar is bad for our teeth and the rest of our body. It weakens our immune system and energy levels. You don’t have to swear off all the goodies, but try to munch on some vegetables between sweet splurges. Supplements will help, but whole fruits and vegetables are your body’s best defensive team. We are blessed to live in a country that can get access to a wide rainbow of food colors even in the dead of winter. Toss some antioxidant-filled blueberries into your oatmeal or a handful of spinach into your smoothie, and steam some broccoli with dinner. Your mouth will thank you in more ways than one.
This one is tough. Holidays in any year can bring stress, but so far 2020 has proven to be special. Winter after an election like that and the last six months of a pandemic can shoot stress levels pretty high. Find some healthy ways to stay calm and take care of yourself–coloring, yoga, meditation, exercise, reading whatever works. Getting enough sleep will also go a long way in keeping stress manageable. Being well-rested can make any problem feel less daunting. Unplug from screens an hour before bedtime and charge your devices in another room. Keep your room dark and use it only for sleeping. Quality sleep will keep your stress lower, and your body will respond by staying stronger and healthier.
Hydration is Happiness
Water makes everything better. It flushes out toxins, rinses your mouth, and keeps your body systems running as they should. Drinking half your body weight in ounces of water is a great goal. Yes, it will mean a few more trips to the bathroom while your body adjusts, but your body will deal with it and be happy to do so.
Brush, Floss, Rinse
Nothing new here. The classic advice from your favorite Weber County family dentist never gets old. Brush twice a day, floss every night, and use a mouthwash to rinse away whatever you missed. This advice gets repeated often because it works. You’ll eat more sugar than you should, stay up late more nights than you’re “supposed” to, and yoga won’t always work. Those risks can be managed as you keep on top of your dental health. So, enjoy the cookies—but make sure you use the toothbrush, too.
Bundle up, eat your veggies, take some deep breaths, and keep brushing. This winter is going to be fantastic.