Incorporate Oral Health Into 2016 Resolutions

It may seem obvious why constant snacking and nail biting are habits to focus on breaking in the New Year. Their connection to oral health, however, may not be so clear.

MouthHealthy.org, the American Dental Association’s consumer website, in January offers six goals for 2016 that involve breaking unhealthy habits — including nail biting and snacking — that can harm teeth.

Here are six habits to consider breaking this year and ways to help you quit them:

  • Nail biting can “chip teeth and impact your jaw,” said Dr. Ruchi Sahota, an ADA member and dentist in California. “Placing your jaw for long periods of time in a protruding position can place pressure on it, which is associated with jaw dysfunction.” Using bitter-tasting nail polish, or finding ways to reduce stress, are ways to help reduce nail biting.
  • Grazing on snacks all day, especially when the foods or drinks contain sugar, puts teeth at higher risk for cavities. “When you eat, cavity-causing bacteria feast on leftover food, producing an acid that attacks the outer shell of your teeth,” according to MouthHealthy.org. Ways to combat this effect include eating balanced, nutritious meals to feel fuller longer and eliminate the need to snack; consuming snacks with low sugar and fat; and washing down any sugary snacks with water.
  • Chewing ice cubes can break tooth enamel and fillings. Instead, try using a straw or drinking chilled beverages minus the ice.
  • Teeth are not a pair of scissors! The ADA suggests not using teeth to “stand in for a pair of scissors or hold things when your hands are full.” This can lead to cracked teeth, injured jaws or accidentally swallowing something.
  • While the ADA suggests brushing for two minutes twice a day, brushing teeth too hard can damage them — and irritate gums. Use a soft toothbrush that features that ADA Seal of Acceptance and “don’t think ‘scrub.’ Think ‘massage,’" said Dr. Matthew Messina, ADA spokesman and a dentist in Ohio. “Save the hard toothbrush for cleaning the grout in the bathroom tile.”
  • Grinding and clenching the teeth can cause them to chip or crack and can also lead to muscle tenderness or joint pain. “Relaxation exercises and staying aware make a difference,” said Dr. Messina. A nighttime mouthguard can also help. “You’ll have less tooth damage, less pain and muscle soreness and better sleep.”

For more information about oral health resolutions and other related topics, visit MouthHealthy.org.

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Common Conditions During ADULTHOOD

As we get older, dental care for adults is crucial. Here are a few of the conditions to be aware of:

Gum disease – if your home care routine of brushing and flossing has slipped and you have skipped your regular dental cleanings, bacterial plaque and tartar can build up on your teeth. The plaque and tartar, if left untreated, may eventually cause irreparable damage to your jawbone and support structures, and could lead to tooth loss.

Oral cancer – according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, men over the age of 40 have the greatest risk for oral cancer. About approximately 43,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, tongue or throat area, and the ACS estimates that about 7,000 people will die from these cancers. The use of tobacco products and alcohol increases the risk of oral cancer. Most oral cancers are first diagnosed by the dentist during a routine checkup.

Dental fillings break down – fillings have a life expectancy of eight to 10 years. However, they can last 20 years or longer. When the fillings in your mouth start to break down, food and bacteria can get underneath them and can cause decay deep in the tooth.