By: General Dentist Emily Skibinski
The new year is the perfect time to start fresh. Many people will be making resolutions to be healthier through exercise and/or diet, so why not improve your oral health too? The mouth is the gateway to the body and maintaining good oral health can help prevent other health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
Specifically for children, establishing a good oral health routine early on can set them up for a lifetime of good habits. Be sure to help your kids brush twice a day and floss once to ensure they’re on the right path to a healthy mouth!
Here are 5 tips to help you start the year off with the best oral health possible:
1. Revisit your flossing routine
Flossing once a day is extremely important to your oral health. A toothbrush is only able to reach 60% of your teeth’s surfaces, and flossing is the only way to remove plaque and debris from the other 40%. However, flossing only provides a benefit to your oral health when done correctly. By not using a C-shape when flossing and not going far enough under the gums, flossing won’t remove the plaque hidden in between your teeth and deep under the gumline. On the contrary, those who floss too hard run the risk of damaging their gums, resulting in additional oral health issues down the road. Be sure to ask your hygienist for tips at your next appointment and take the time to learn proper flossing technique.
2. Consider switching to an electric toothbrush
An electric toothbrush is often considered more effective than a traditional toothbrush when used correctly. With an electric toothbrush, users do not have to brush back and forth but simply guide the brush through the quadrants of the mouth and the tiny vibrations do the cleaning. Especially if you tend to see more plaque and calcium buildup in your mouth, an electric toothbrush can be more effective in removing these particles daily. Many electric toothbrushes also have a built-in 2-minute timer to help keep you accountable!
It’s important to note that brushing too hard—whether with an electric or traditional toothbrush—can damage your gums. Be careful when brushing to always use a 45-degree angle towards the gum line and brush softly to avoid damaging your gums and wearing away the enamel.
3. Don’t forget the tongue!
Your tongue has millions of bacteria living on it and can contribute to plaque buildup resulting in cavities. It also contains taste buds and folds, which can harbor buildup and residue leading to bad breath. When you brush, be sure to gently brush your tongue as well to remove bacteria.
4. Cut back on sugar
Sugar has a direct relationship to tooth decay. By cutting back on your sugar intake, you can decrease your risk of developing cavities. Limiting those delicious sweets can be difficult, so I recommend trying some substitutions such as sugar-free seltzer water instead of soda or chewing sugar-free gum when a craving arises. Chewing sugar-free gum after a meal is actually a good thing! It can help wash away food particles and harmful bacteria until you’re able to brush your teeth.
For those special occasions when you need a sweet treat, stay away from hard candy or sticky gummies, as they stay on the teeth for longer and mix with the plaque on your teeth to turn into harmful acid that breaks away enamel. You can also choose chocolates instead since they melt away quickly and don’t stay in the mouth for as long.
5. Schedule your next appointment soon
Especially if it’s been over 6 months since your last appointment, be sure to schedule a dental cleaning and exam soon. Especially if you’re experiencing sensitivity or pain, or have an area of concern in the mouth, it’s best not to wait. The longer we wait to address any dental issues, the more painful (and costly!) that issue becomes. Don’t let your oral health fall by the wayside!
With these oral health tips, you and your family can start 2021 on the right foot—and tooth!