Taking steps to improve dental health is a critical part of overall health and wellness. Without proper oral care, you may be more prone to develop issues such as tooth decay, gingivitis or gum disease. Because diseases of the mouth can affect the rest of your body, it is important to maintain good oral health. With the “New Year, New You” mentality top of mind as we begin a new year, consider adopting some of these healthier dental habits.
1. Don’t rush when you brush.
Of course brushing at least twice daily is a must, but for optimal care, make sure you brush for two full minutes each time. If that sounds excessive, think of spending 30 seconds on each quarter of your mouth. There are fun apps which play two minutes of music to help you stay on track. Check out BrushDJ or the Disney Magic Timer. Also – be gentle on your gums! Try holding the toothbrush with only three fingers.
2. Floss like a boss.
It seems like a dentist’s mantra: “Make sure you floss every day!” While it’s easy to say we will be better about daily flossing, building a habit takes time. Research says it takes about three weeks. Try baby steps to make the habit a little easier. Start by keeping floss sticks in your briefcase, handbag or car to make it easier to floss after meals or snacks. Technically, floss sticks don’t clean as nicely as good old fashioned floss string, but they are a good start to get into the flossing habit.
3. Be picky if it’s sticky!
Banish the gooey stuff! Jelly beans, gummies, fruit snacks and other sticky foods can wreak havoc on your teeth. While all sugary treats contribute to tooth decay, these gummy treats stick in the teeth, keeping the sugar and resulting acids in contact with your enamel for hours. Consider healthier alternatives like raisins, trail mix, fresh or frozen fruit or dark chocolate.
4. Drink wisely.
We all know eating candy and sweets can cause cavities … but have you stopped to think about what you drink? Even “naturally” sweetened juices and citrus-flavored waters may contain acids that can soften your enamel, increasing the risk of cavities and tooth decay.
The American Dental Association recommends enjoying citrus-flavored waters in one sitting or with a meal and then allowing your teeth an opportunity to recover. It takes about 15 minutes for your teeth to buffer back to a normal pH after putting anything in your mouth other than water.
In this new year, resolve to pay attention to how much exposure your teeth get to acidic or sugary drinks.
5. ‘Til the cows come home!
Eating dairy products isn’t just great for your bones, it’s also great for your teeth. When you eat cheese, it calls up saliva which scrubs away plaque and other food bits on your teeth.
When socializing at a party or get together, opt for the cheese platter over sugary snacks or chips and salsa … your teeth will thank you!
6. Wet your whistle.
Prevent bad breath by addressing one of the major causes: Dry mouth! When your salivary glands don’t make sufficient saliva to keep your mouth wet, dry mouth (and bad breath) happens. Dry mouth can be a side effect of various medications — or it could be as simple as not drinking enough water. Daily flossing, mouthwash and chewing sugarless gum all help to curb dry mouth, but if you feel it’s a bigger issue, please talk to your dentist.
7. Chew on this!
Do you have a habit of crunching on ice cubes? Chewing ice can damage tooth enamel and cause cracks or chips in your teeth, which can lead to further problems such as increased sensitivity to temperature and pain. Instead, try chewing sugarless gum. However, if you just can’t beat the ice craving, replace the ice cubes with crushed ice. Crushed ice pieces are much smaller so they pose less risk to your tooth enamel.
8. We aren’t neanderthals.
Don’t use your teeth as tools! From prying open packages to popping off bottle lids — your teeth are not meant to be your tools! These activities put strain on your teeth and can cause them to crack or chip, which can be painful and pricey to fix. The solution? Keep scissors and bottle openers handy and save your teeth for eating!
9. Mind the Grind.
Consider getting fitted for a custom mouthguard. As we age (and life gets more stressful), it’s not uncommon to clench or grind your jaw while sleeping. Not only can this behavior cause headaches and jaw pain, over time, it can wear down your teeth (which is irreversible). Often, we aren’t even aware that we are clenching or grinding our teeth! A quick trip to the dentist can determine if your teeth show evidence of clenching or grinding, and your dentist can fit you for a custom night guard.
10. Your smile deserves it.
As you age, the outer layer of enamel on your teeth gets worn away and reduces the translucency of the tooth, which causes a darker or yellowed appearance. If you are planning on making big changes this year (job interview or a special occasion), consider boosting your self-confidence and appearance with a younger, brighter smile. Whiter teeth make you look more successful, employable, attractive and even five years younger, according to a recent study conducted by Oral B.
A lot of New Year’s resolutions focus on losing things (such as bad habits or body weight). For 2020, let’s change things up and make yours about gaining good habits for healthy dental care.
Try all of these dental resolutions or start with one or two to work your way toward optimal dental health.
If it has been more than six months since your last dental cleaning, start those healthy habits now. Contact us today to schedule your appointment with one of Boston’s Top Docs!