While most people look forward to holidays such as Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Easter with eager anticipation, your family dentist has more ambivalent feelings. Each of these holidays are celebrated with an abundance of candy and other sweets that are often still available long after each holiday has passed. All of the advice about curtailing sugar given by dentists is forgotten for several months.

What's so bad about sugar?

There is nothing wrong with sugar and other carbohydrates in moderation, but one word that doesn't come to mind around the holidays is moderation. Sugar is often consumed in small portions throughout the day during the holiday seasons, and stays in the mouth between brushing and flossing times.

Bacteria in the saliva create a sticky substance called plaque. Plaque forms as a film on the teeth both above and below the gums.If it is not removed daily by brushing and flossing the teeth, plaque will cause further damage. It feeds on sugars to produce acids which cause cavities and tooth decay, and can combine with bacteria below the gum line to cause gum disease, a major factor in tooth loss.

If plaque is not removed on a regular basis, it can use minerals in the saliva to form tartar, a hard substance that can only be removed by dentists. Tartar is a bacteria collector, and when it appears below the gum line, can cause the gums to recede and allow bacteria to flourish under the gums.

The holiday seasons bring such a wealth of sugary sweets that they can't be consumed in one day. Periodic snacking on small pieces of candy all day provides a continuous supply of sugar on which bacteria can feast to produce their destructive acids.

What can be done about sugary treats during the holiday seasons?

The epidemic of obesity and type 2 diabetes should be enough of a warning for the public to curtail the consumption of sugar, if tooth decay is not enough. However, holiday traditions are slow to change. Parents want their children to share the joys that they experienced when they were young. A heart shaped box of chocolates is the expected gift from lovers to their beloved on Valentine's Day.

Discipline is the key to dental health, as well as overall well-being. Sugary sweets should be consumed as dessert after a nutritious meal. Adults as well as children can be given a free pass for one day to indulge as they will, but they must agree to an extra midday brush and floss, then accept rationing after the holiday has passed. Be sure to visit a dentist, such as one from Alegre Dental and Braces, often to avoid these problems.