Looking After Your Teeth: Five New Year's Resolutions for a Healthier Mouth

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We all make new year's resolutions, but many of us are not likely to follow through. Turning over a new leaf in the New Year can be tricky, but finding a way to stick with it is important when that new leaf benefits your health. If you want to take better care when looking after your teeth and gums this year, these five resolutions can keep you diligent:

Schedule a Dental Appointment

If it's been a while since you've seen a dentist, you're not alone. About one third of people in the U.S. don't see a dentist yearly, according to the American Dental Association (ADA) Mouth Healthy site. But booking this appointment is one of the most important things you can do when looking after your teeth. According to the ADA, some conditions – such as sensitivity in the teeth or bleeding gums – are sure signs that it's time to see a dentist. Even if your teeth look and feel fine, enter a reminder in your phone or calendar for January 1 so that you can call your dentist on January 2 for an appointment.

To make the process of scheduling visits easier, book your next one before you leave their office. Most dentists send out reminder cards a week prior or call a day before your appointment; check that yours does.

Commit to Flossing

Brushing your teeth twice a day isn't enough to keep plaque from building up on your teeth, or to completely remove bits of food from your mouth. To take the best care of your teeth, you need to floss too. If you're not in the habit of flossing, the new year is a great time to start.

One way to make it easier to remember is putting a container of floss on top of or directly next to your Colgate Total® Clean Mint Toothpaste. Position the container so that you have to touch it when taking your toothpaste out of the drawer or cabinet. Stash another container of floss in your purse or desk drawer at work, so that you can floss on the go if you forget to do it at home.

Cut Back on Sugar

A study published in BMC Public Health in September 2014 confirmed a direct link between the amount of sugar a person eats and the amount of tooth decay he has. Cutting back on sugar can cut your risk for tooth decay considerably. The most convenient way to cut back on sugar is to reduce the number of sugary treats you buy. Simple swaps will help you cut back as well: Drink sugar-free seltzer water instead of soda, or chew a piece of sugar-free gum when you have a craving for something sweet.

Kick the Habit

Smoking doubles your risk for gum disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and is linked to a host of other health issues. Pick a date to give up the habit, get rid of all the tobacco products from your home and solicit the support of your friends and family to help you quit. There will be cravings along the way, so it's important to find a healthy activity to engage in when a craving kicks in. Feel free to see your general practitioner if you struggle to curb the addiction by yourself.

Eat More Mouth-Healthy Foods

When you cut back on sugar, resolve to add more orally healthy foods to your diet to solidify your diet's benefit to your teeth. Dairy products, which are high in calcium, are great for your teeth, as are fibrous foods that call up saliva and scrub away plaque and other food bits, according to Delta Dental.

Making your new year's resolutions as easy as possible to stick with will help you keep them. Take things one step at a time, and if you forget to floss one day or eat a big piece of caramel the next, don't give up. Remember that there's always tomorrow!

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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.