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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 cold and dry conditions. The good news is, there are steps you can take to protect your mouth, teeth, and gums during this season.

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 and 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 be accompanied by pain.

Getting plenty of sleep and eating a nutrient-rich diet with vitamins and minerals can build up your immune system as a weakened immune system invites viral infection. You might want to keep your hands clean to avoid picking up viral bacteria. 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 traditional 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 like candy canes, peppermint candy bark, chocolate, fudge, truffles
-Chewy, sticky candy, like caramel, jellybeans, divinity, toffee
-Dried fruit like trail mix and apricots, figs, raisins and prunes, which stick relentlessly to teeth
-Alcohol which dries out your mouth and is high in sugar

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 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 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 injury, an athletic guard can safeguard your smile when you engage in any of the following:

-Martial arts

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, 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 and let you breathe easily.

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 mouth. Take extra care of your mouth this winter and enjoy the new year with a beautiful smile all-year-round!