Winter is here and if you are exposed to the harsher weather, you could find yourself experiencing more cold and canker sores, chapped lips and dry mouth from the colder, drier conditions of the season. The good news is, there are steps you can take to protect your mouth, teeth, and gums during this time. 1. Cold and Canker Sore Protection When your smile is exposed to the winter sun you can find yourself with cold sore breakouts. Stress is another trigger for mouth sores, so all the holiday shopping, decorating, baking, entertaining, and extra socializing can bring on stress. Mouth sores can show up as red, fluid-filled blisters on the mouth and lips, or as ulcers on your cheeks, lips, gums, tongue, the bottom of your mouth, or soft palate, and even be accompanied by pain. Getting plenty of sleep and eating a nutrient-rich diet with vitamins and minerals can build up your immune system. This is important as a weakened immune system are more vulnerable to viral infection. Canker sores can also arise because of overindulgence in wintery treats if the food is high in acid (hello hot cider and spicy treats)! These are generally small and painful ulcers in the mouth that look red, white, or yellow. Tip: Treat oral sores and help speed up healing by gargling with salt water and applying a paste of baking soda and water to the ulcer. Over-the-counter medications can help soothe any pain. 2. Limiting Sweets Another way your smile takes a hit in the winter is from all the excess sugar consumed during the holidays, like hot cocoa and sugary treats. Be mindful of how much sugar you expose your pearly whites to on a daily basis. It doesn’t just feed your sweet tooth but also feeds cavity-causing oral bacteria! We recommend limiting your consumption of these sugary treats: – Holiday candy: Candy canes, peppermint bark, chocolate, fudge, truffles – Chewy, sticky candy: Caramel, jellybeans, divinity, toffee – Dried fruit: Trail mix, apricots, figs, raisins and prunes – Alcohol: A double whammy, alcohol is high in sugar and dries out your mouth Notice we’re not saying to avoid sugar altogether, just limit your consumption. When you do indulge, take a moment to rinse your mouth well with water or brush your teeth to clear any sugary residue. Tip: Hydration provides a healthier oral environment, so drink plenty of water! Since winter is cold-and-flu season, stick to sugar-free cold/fever medicines and sugar-free cough drops and lozenges for your throat. Your mouth will thank you! 3. Oral Protection During Sports Protecting your smile from injury is a big deal when you participate in sports that can result in cracked, broken or knocked-out teeth, lacerated oral tissues or even jaw injury. The best protection for teeth and gums and to prevent oral injury is wearing an athletic guard (and a helmet) during sporting activities. Along with winter sports like skiing, snowboarding and ice skating which can lead to mouth, head and jaw injuries,, an athletic guard can safeguard your smile when you engage in the following: – Biking – Skateboarding – Rollerblading – Football – Hockey – Boxing – Basketball – Volleyball – Baseball – Softball – Martial arts – Lacrosse – Wrestling Tip: The main reason people forgo wearing mouth guards is that they can be uncomfortable, and that is often true for the stock and bite-and-boil or over-the-counter versions. However, a customized athletic guard from the dentist can solve that problem as it will be made to fit comfortably in the mouth while letting you breathe with ease. Winter is a fun-filled time of year, but it can also bring elements that harm your teeth and gums. Call our team if you have any questions or concerns about protecting your smile. Take extra care of your mouth this season and ring in the New Year with a beautiful smile all-year-round!