A freilichen Purim doesn’t mean you have to fry your oral health

Purim 2021, Photo Credit: Carl Thiese

Purim in March, 2020 was the first holiday where many American Jews had to rethink how we would socialize due to the arrival of COVID-19 cases in both Israel and the US. Last year, many of us were able to keep our plans, while there were a few cancellations here and there. This year, however, many of us will probably be in a different situation, and like most of our holidays since last Purim, we will probably be in groups no bigger than five people.

While the size of our celebrations has significantly reduced, the way that we celebrate probably will not. I’m sure many of us will be receiving packages from our friends and family in Israel with candy from the Shuk, and we’ll even exchange mishloach manot with tiny bottles of our choice alcoholic beverages in them.

Another difficult task this Purim will be the reconciling of the trends of self-improvement brought on by the past 11 or so months of work-from-home with the junk food we’ll be eating. The main theme of the past few months is: anything that we can control, we should. This means that people have been working out, dieting, and using this time of social distancing to get their teeth in order. Whoever has spent the last few years fretting about their teeth has probably gone to the orthodontist to get the job done while their social life is on hold.

Dr Oleg Drut – Credit, Dr. Drut

Recently, I was able to interview Orthodontist and Entrepreneur Dr. Oleg Drut of Diamond Braces, who opened his first location in 2000. Now, Diamond braces has well over 30 locations in the tristate area in the US. He was able to give me some good tips about how to keep our smile as clean and healthy as possible during a time of indulging.

“First is a tip I give to everyone: stay away from milk or dairy products after you’ve brushed your teeth at night. If you let lactic acid rest on your teeth overnight, the outer protective lining of your teeth, the enamel, will begin to dissolve,” says Drut. Luckily, Purim is a holiday where those of us living in the American communities tend to pick meat over dairy, but this is still a general rule of thumb. Planning to enjoy a spiked hot chocolate or Irish Coffee on Purim? Better keep it to the morning time!

Those who celebrate Purim mostly associate the holiday with libations, which sometimes start well before the megillah is read. “Alcoholic drinks such as wine, ciders, and alcopops, are normally high in sugar. Whiskey, scotches, and beers tend to have high acidic content. Both of these are dangerous for your dental enamel.” says Drut. His tip? “Find a fluoride-rich mouthwash and use it twice per day. Fluoride helps combat acidic and sugar-based decay.”

Dr. Drut proudly belongs to the Russian Jewish community in Brooklyn, a portion of which is embracing religious Judaism, trading out their old Novy God Christmas Trees they so fondly loved in Odessa for a renewed interest in Jewish Holidays. Now that many of his patients are keeping kosher kitchens, Dr. Drut is frequently asked which mouthwashes are kosher. “While I always tell my patients to discuss the matter with their rabbi, I know for sure that there are many rabbis who discourage the use of glycerin which can be found in most mouthwashes. For those concerned by this ingredient, the fluoride-fortified mouthwashes including Brightol and Orbitol have been deemed acceptable for use in a kosher home.

Novogodnyaya yolka in Moscow in 2007-2008 – By Андрей Ю. Вуколов / Andrey Y. Vukolov – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3304046

In any sweets-heavy season, treats get easily stuck in braces and sometimes underneath Invisalign inserts. Dr. Drut advises that anyone who has orthodontic implants to stock up on the kinds of floss that can be easily woven in and out of braces (the ones with the nibbed edges that can be used to thread behind the metal wire), and says that those with Invisalign should be frequently cleaning their inserts.

With regards to the upcoming spring as a whole, Dr. Drut says, “whether it’s Purim or Mardi Gras, Easter or Passover, don’t let all of your hard work over the past year go out the window. Take care of yourself. A healthier mouth means a healthier immune system, which is all-too-important these days.”

About the Author
Carl Thiese is a CPA by academics, who has served as a business consultant at the United Nations and several European embassies. He has studied the growth of the Jewish communities around the world, and consults on management audits for fortune 500 companies. My expertise lies in helping bridge business opportunities with local communities to help governments help people become more self sufficient.
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