We plan to exercise more, eat a bit less, choose healthier foods, and take time to enjoy family and friends. All worthwhile intentions. But, how many commit to taking better care of their oral health? Though everyone wants to be able to chew their favorite foods, speak clearly and have a white, bright, and welcoming smile, the resolutions that help us stay in excellent dental health are not always on our ‘to do’ list.
What are some 2018 resolutions that will enhance our dental health?
Drink water. Not only does it wash away bits of food, helping to remove harmful bacteria, it also helps to neutralize acids. And, if it’s tap with water with fluoride; that’s a plus. But, remember, while it’s a form of water, avoid chewing ice. It’s one of the main causes of both chipped teeth and tooth fractures.
Choose other drinks with care. Sodas, diet sodas, sport drinks, fruit juices, wines, and coffee can all be enjoyed, in moderation. And with an awareness of the potential harm these liquids can pose to the tooth’s enamel. While we know that the sugar in soda, sport drinks, and fruit juices can cause cavities, these drinks are also full of acids that attack the surface of the tooth. So too are wines, even white wine. Follow these sugary and acidic drinks with a glass of water.
Stop smoking. Not only is there a direct link between smoking and lung cancer, as well as COPD, it also significantly impacts oral health. According to the American Cancer Society, both inhaled tobacco and smokeless tobacco contain cancer-causing agents. As the oral cavity is the first contact, the chemicals present in tobacco products can cause cancers – of the gums, tongue, mouth and esophagus. And, what may be a surprise to many, smokeless tobacco contains sugars, linked to an increase in cavities. It’s also an irritant to the gums, potentially leading to recession of the gum tissue that exposes the root of the tooth. The tooth is left unprotected and tooth loss can result.
When playing sports – protect those pearly whites. From youngsters to seniors, sports that involve contact, by a person or an object, expose our teeth to potential damage. A guard, either custom fabricated by your dentist, or one purchased at the drugstore, can save those upper teeth from accidental damage or loss.
Buy a new toothbrush every 3 months. And choose with care. There may be a sale, but not all toothbrushes are equal. They come in sizes; select one with a head that is appropriate for you – it’s important to be able to manipulate the brush; if your mouth is small, purchase one with a small head. And, check the bristles. Intuitively, it may seem that the harder the bristles, the better they clean. But, that is not the case. A softer bristle is more flexible and cleans better under the gum. A handle that is comfortable and facilitates cleaning the hard to reach areas is important. And, brushing up and down, rather than across, will help maximize the 2 minutes needed to do a thorough job.
Read food labels. More saliva, which helps to clean the teeth, is produced when eating a full meal. So, if a sweet or starchy treat is a must, enjoy it with lunch or dinner. When you want a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack, select healthy ones. Candy, especially sticky ones like gummie bears, pose the greatest risk and are best avoided.
Floss Everyday. When plaque accumulates on the teeth, which happens as quickly as just a few hours after eating, the plaque begins to harden. After 48 hours, plaque will begin to eat into the teeth and cause cavities. Missing one day of flossing is a recipe for a dental visit because it will take a professional to remove the plaque and repair the teeth and gums that have incurred the damage. This is the damage that is caused by missing a day of flossing, by the way.
Plan your Dental Checkup every six months. During your checkup appointment, your dentist will likely evaluate the health of your gums, perform a head and neck examination (to look for anything out of the ordinary) and examine your mouth for any indications of oral cancer, diabetes or vitamin deficiencies. Don’t be surprised if your dentist also examines your face, bite, saliva and movement of your lower jaw joints (TMJs). Your dentist will then clean your teeth and stress the importance of you maintaining good oral hygiene at home between visits.
We can strive to be healthier tomorrow than we are today! And that includes dental health. Make a list. Determine what is realistic and doable. Prioritize. Set goals. Check the list periodically and ask, “How am I doing?”
Tweak the list. Have a Happy, Healthy, Holiday Season and 2018!