Make Oral Health Your New Year’s Resolution

The New Year is just around the corner, and if you’re like most people, you plan on making a resolution to improve 2014. While common resolutions involve weight loss, exercise, or changing jobs, we suggest resolving to improve your oral health. This resolution is surprisingly easy to keep and can dramatically improve your overall health. Here are a few suggestions for achievable New Year’s resolutions for better oral health:

Commit to Regular Checkups

Schedule and attend dental checkups and cleanings at least twice a year or as your dentist recommends. Regular visits can help you avoid more expensive treatments if your dentist catches problems in their earliest stages. Professional dental cleaning removes plaque and tartar you can’t remove with a toothbrush or floss.

Improve Your At-Home Dental Care

If you brush and floss regularly, you’re on the right track. But you should floss daily and brush at least twice daily. Flossing is one of the most important aspects of oral hygiene but is neglected by most adults. It’s unfortunate, as flossing before brushing loosens plaque and removes debris your toothbrush can’t reach.

Consider investing in an electric toothbrush and antimicrobial mouthwash to enhance your oral hygiene routine. Replace your toothbrush or brush head every 3-4 months. If you hate the thought of using dental floss, a water flosser is an alternative that is easy to use and effectively cleans between the teeth.

Give Up Bad Oral Habits

There are obvious bad habits you should give up to protect your teeth, including smoking and using oral tobacco. Any tobacco use increases the risk of gum disease, tooth discoloration and decay, enamel erosion, and oral cancer.

Other unhealthy habits include biting your nails, opening packages with your teeth, and chewing on ice, pens, or other hard implements. Getting these habits under control can prolong the health of your teeth, minimizing the risk of worn, broken, or chipped teeth.

Reduce Stress

Highly stressed individuals often clench their jaw or grind their teeth. If you often wake up with headaches, toothaches, or jaw pain, talk to your dentist to see whether you are experiencing bruxism, a form of teeth grinding that is usually subconscious. Over time, teeth grinding wears down teeth prematurely. It can also cause broken and cracked teeth. Because bruxism is related to stress, talk to a professional about ways to reduce stress, such as meditation, yoga, or exercise.

Be Pro-Active About Protecting Your Teeth

It may be too late to protect your smile if you are injured during sports or other activities. Once a tooth is lost, it may be difficult to restore it. To ensure you don’t lose teeth, always wear a mouthguard for any contact sports or highly physical activities that could lead to a facial injury.

At your next dental checkup, ask your dentist about other ways you can protect your teeth. A dental sealant may be suggested if you have soft tooth enamel or are prone to cavities. It’s an inexpensive way to protect your teeth now so you don’t experience tooth decay later.

Be Mindful of Your Eating and Drinking Habits

One of the worst culprits for tooth decay is sugary soda. Avoid soft drinks and sweetened fruit juices; always brush after consuming them. You should also reduce sugary foods and regulate how many carbohydrates you eat, as the carbs transform into sugar and can attack your tooth enamel.

Chew a stick of sugar-free gum if you eat a rich meal or sugary dessert and can’t brush after. The gum stimulates saliva production, which helps wash away sugars that can cling to the base of the teeth. Staying hydrated also helps maintain saliva production and minimizes bad breath.

Invest in a Dental First Aid Kit

You probably already have a first aid kit in your home and care, but do you have the right supplies for a dental emergency? Cracking or losing a tooth can lead to serious health issues and is often painful. A dental care kit can save a tooth and alleviate pain until you see a dentist. You can find several suitable kits online or ask your dentist what they recommend.

Consistency is critical when making New Year’s resolutions to improve oral health. Making the commitment now will pay oral health benefits for years to come.