If you’re planning to live a healthier lifestyle in the New Year, don’t forget about your oral health. When your teeth and gums are healthy, the rest of your body can reap the rewards. As you consider your New Year’s resolutions, try adding a few of these oral health-boosting ideas to your goal list.
1) Eat the Right Foods
If you have health goals for the New Year, you’re probably already thinking about the foods you should cut from your diet and those you should eat more of. Adding healthy, nutrient-rich foods to your meal plan and cutting out sugary snacks and beverages can help strengthen your teeth and ward off bacteria that causes tooth decay and gum disease.
Eat more of these:
- Leafy greens: Filled with vitamins and minerals such as enamel-strengthening calcium and folic acid.
- Carrots: The high water content in carrots can help clean your teeth and stimulate healthy saliva production.
- Celery: This oral-health boosting vegetable is filled with water. Its fibers can also act like a mini toothbrush to clear away food particles after meals. Celery is also rich in vitamins A and C which have amazing antioxidant properties.
- Apples: While apples contain natural sugars, they can still be good for your teeth. Crunchy apples help produce healthy saliva to wash away bacteria found in your mouth.
- Lean protein and nuts: Phosphorus is a wonderful nutrient for strengthening teeth. It can be found in chicken breasts, eggs and pork chops. If you refrain from eating meat or don’t eat much meat, certain nuts like almonds are also high in protein and teeth-strengthening calcium.
- Dairy products: If you eat dairy, you’re in luck. Dairy products like cheese, yogurt and milk all contain calcium and protein that can strengthen your teeth and lower your risk for tooth decay.
Eat less of these:
- Sticky, sugary candy and sweets: Bacteria feed on sugar in your mouth and produce acid that can promote cavities and gum disease.
- Dried fruit. Dried fruits can get stuck to your teeth and between them which can promote bacterial growth and tooth decay.
- Bleached flour breads and potato chips: These carbohydrate-rich foods contain starches that are just another form of sugar.
- Sugary sodas: These are filled with decay-promoting sugars and acids that can wear away tooth enamel.
- Sports drinks and fruit juices: These drinks may sound healthy, but can contain as much sugar as soda.
2) Drink More Water
An oral health-boosting diet should also include plenty of clean, filtered water. Not only is water great for the overall health of your body, drinking more of it throughout the day can wash away food debris from your teeth and keep your saliva levels high. More water consumption means that you’ll have less of a chance of developing cavities and other dental issues.
3) Stop Grinding Your Teeth
Grinding your teeth at night causes forces from your jaws to exert three to ten times more pressure on your teeth than regular chewing. And when you’re sleeping, you have no idea that you’re doing it! When left untreated, teeth grinding can lead to tooth fractures, headaches, TMJ issues and other dental problems. Your dentist can help you combat these effects with the following treatments:
- Dental Botox: Your dentist may suggest dental Botox to treat teeth grinding and clenching issues as the injections can relax your jaw muscles.
- Custom Mouth Guards: While mouth guards can’t stop you from grinding your teeth, they can protect your teeth from issues caused by the pressure from grinding.
- ClearCorrect Invisible Aligners, Dental Crowns or Dental Bridges: When your bite is misaligned or your teeth are crooked, this can cause stress on your jaw joint when you grind your teeth. ClearCorrect, dental crowns or dental bridges may be recommended to help correct your smile.
4) Stop Smoking & Using Tobacco Products
Improve your overall health and oral health by quitting all tobacco products. Tooth decay, gum disease and oral cancer can all be prevented if you stop smoking or chewing tobacco. Talk to your primary care doctor for support to help you quit your smoking habit. There are also free online programs, progress apps and in-person support groups available to help you stop.
5) Schedule an Oral Cancer Screening
Oral cancer can be life-threatening if it isn’t diagnosed and treated early. Make an oral cancer screening a high priority on your goal list if you have any of the following oral cancer risk factors:
- You use tobacco products or drink alcohol. The majority of oral cancer cases are linked to tobacco use and heavy drinking especially when alcohol and tobacco are used simultaneously.
- You are 55 or older. Aging can increase your risk of developing oral cancer.
- You have HPV. High-risk types of HPV (human papillomavirus) have been linked to oral cancers.
- You have a weakened immune system. Weakened immune systems from age, certain diseases and some medications can put you at higher risk of developing oral cancer.
- Your diet is unhealthy. If you eat unhealthy meals that are low in fresh vegetables and other nutrient-rich foods, your oral cancer risk can increase.
- You spend a lot of time in the sun. If you spend long periods of time in direct sunlight, you may develop lip cancer.
6) Straighten Your Smile
While straight teeth can make your smile look better, they can also help you ward of a host of oral health issues. If your teeth are overcrowded, crooked, gapped, or you have problems with your bite, these dental issues can cause tooth decay, teeth grinding and affect your chewing abilities. Boost your oral health in the New Year by discussing tooth straightening options with your dentist such as ClearCorrect invisible aligners.
7) Replace Missing Teeth
If you’re missing one or more of your teeth, it can negatively affect the overall health of your smile. Sure, missing teeth can be unsightly and even affect your chewing and speaking ability, but they can also cause volume loss in your jaw as your bone tissue shrinks over time. This is a big problem as a healthy jawbone can keep other teeth from falling out. Your dentist may recommend dental implants, dental bridges or dentures to restore your smile and boost your oral health.
8) Learn Correct Brushing & Flossing Techniques
While you may already brush and floss your teeth regularly, you could be doing it incorrectly. This could lead to oral health complications later after plaque develops on and between your teeth. Follow these recommendations from the American Dental Association to keep your teeth and gums healthy:
- Brush twice a day with a good, soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste.
- Position your toothbrush bristles at a 45-degree angle toward the gum line and move the brush across your teeth.
- Floss once each day (before bedtime if you can) using the following technique: Use 18 inches of floss wound around your middle finger, with the rest wound around the opposite middle finger. Hold floss tightly between thumbs and forefingers and gently insert floss between teeth. Curve the floss in a “C” shape against the side of the tooth. Rub floss gently up and down, keeping it pressed against the tooth. Don’t jerk or snap the floss. Floss all of your teeth — including behind your back teeth.
- Replace your toothbrush every 3 or 4 months.
9) Schedule Recommended Dental Procedures
A new year is the perfect time to schedule any dental work you have been putting off. Whether your dentist suggested root canal treatment, a dental crown, tooth fillings, a dental implant, or treatment for TMJ, get your procedures scheduled out so you can achieve your healthiest smile in the New Year.
10) Schedule Teeth Cleanings & Exams
A skilled dentist always knows best when it comes to keeping your smile healthy and boosting your oral health. Instead of putting off scheduling your bi-yearly teeth cleanings and exams, give your dentist a call in the New Year and schedule out your exams ahead of time. Visiting your dentist every six months will ensure a clean bill of oral health all throughout the year.