WEST ALLIS, WIS., Dec. 26, 2019 – The New Year is coming, and it’s time to make your resolution! Choosing one can be easy, but sticking with it can be challenging. If you’re still undecided on your resolution, or have room for one more, make your goal a healthier smile with some simple changes to your oral hygiene routine.
“There’s no better time to start caring more about your teeth and gums than right now,” says WDA President-Elect Dr. Paula Crum, a periodontist in Green Bay. “Good oral hygiene is important for a number of reasons – it helps prevent cavities and gum disease, lowers your risk to other serious health problems and can save you from pricey dental procedures later on. Caring for your mouth can go a long way toward your overall wellness, and is an important element of daily self-care. Practicing a consistent and proper routine is not only a worthwhile goal, it’s also easier than you may think.”
The WDA recommends these tips to better your oral health:
- Treat flossing as important as brushing. In addition to brushing in the morning and at bedtime, an essential part of a good oral health routine is cleaning between your teeth. You may be thinking, “Aren’t I already doing this when I brush?” Unfortunately, toothbrush bristles alone are unable to effectively clean these tight spaces. When left uncared for, these areas can develop plaque that is harmful to your gums and teeth. Interdental cleaning should be done at least once per day, at any time of your choosing. The most important factor in flossing isn’t necessarily when it is done during the day, rather how. Next time you’re with a dentist, talk to them about proper flossing technique and recommendations on the best-suited products for you.
- Improve your diet. If you’re not choosing nutritious foods as part of your everyday diet, you’re missing out on countless physical and oral health benefits. It’s essential to eat a well-rounded diet, while limiting foods with added sugar that contribute to tooth decay. Eating appropriate amounts of whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables not only positively impacts your mouth, but your total physical and mental health, as well. When your diet excludes nutrient-rich choices, gum tissues can weaken, becoming less likely to fight-off infection and may even lead to periodontal disease (a major cause of tooth loss for adults). To learn more about which foods are best for you and how to plan healthy meals, visit ChooseMyPlate.gov.
- Add mouthwash to your routine. Similar to flossing, mouthwash can help clean the hard-to-reach areas in your mouth. There are two types of mouthwashes – cosmetic and therapeutic – with key distinctions between them. Cosmetic options temporarily relieve bad breath, but do not aid in preventing cavities or gum disease. Therapeutic options, however, do and contain bacteria-killing ingredients like fluoride. Both options are available over the counter, so be sure to select products that are ADA-approved and fit your dental health needs. Mouthwash should not be used by children younger than 6 years due to risk of swallowing, which can cause nausea and vomiting.
- Conquer your fear of the dentist’s office. You know you’ll visit the dentist eventually, so why not schedule that visit today? There are many anxieties that can keep someone from seeing a dentist – cost, nervousness about pain, embarrassment about your oral health and more. These are all too common, but can also be overcome. In most cases, dental offices are willing to work with you to create a comfortable financial arrangement. If pain is your worry, be up front with your dentist so that they can appropriately administer anesthesia and work at a rate suitable for you. Regardless of your situation, you shouldn’t be shy about your smile or concerns with your dentist. They’ve likely seen it all, so if it doesn’t bother them, don’t let it bother you.
- Drink more tap water. Water is the best and most accessible beverage option for staying hydrated and maintaining a healthy mouth. Tap water, specifically, contains optimal amounts of fluoride, which has been proven to strengthen teeth and reduce tooth decay in children and adults by 25%, helping to solidify enamel affected by bacteria and acid. “What about bottled water?” Unfortunately, fluoride levels in bottled waters can vary greatly and be difficult to determine. Regardless of where you get your water, staying hydrated is an important part of good oral health to prevent dry mouth, bad breath and cavities.
No matter what time of year, you should always consider what you can do to improve your oral health care routine. A healthy mouth and confident smile can be a powerful asset to your physical and mental well-being, and change your life for the better.
For more information on the best oral health practices for adults and children, please visit WDA.org.