Oral Health New Years Resolutions
The following is an article written by Dr. Joiner for the Orange City Capital Democrat newspaper as part of an ongoing series of articles called Staying Healthy.
As the first contributor to the Staying Healthy article series this year, I figure it is a great opportunity to discuss and encourage a few dental New Year’s resolutions.
New Year’s resolutions rarely succeed according to common knowledge. But it doesn’t need to be so; all you need is motivation and a plan. As I list several dental resolutions below, let me encourage you with some motivation. First off, the cheapest and most comfortable dentistry is no dentistry at all. Seriously, as a dentist, I see each day that those who are able to spend the least, have the least amount of dental work and least discomfort are those who have a good oral health habits. Hopefully saving time, money and avoiding discomfort is enough motivation. As far as a plan – what is needed is a reminder. Most resolutions fade quickly, but keeping the plan in front of you is the most likely way to succeed. Post notes on your bathroom mirror, notifications on your phone, or have someone as an accountability partner. Hopefully you know yourself well enough to choose the proper accountability plan that will work for you.
Another reason resolutions fail is that they are complicated or overly cumbersome. Therefore, the following four dental resolutions are simple, but effective.
Brush and Floss
Most everyone knows this one, but many find it difficult to brush twice daily for two minutes and floss once daily. Those simple habits can significantly decrease your risk for cavities and gum disease. This is the minimum. If you do this and continue to have dental problems, then it is recommended to brush three times per day, floss twice, and use mouthwash or prescription toothpaste. If in doubt, ask your dentist or dental hygienist.
People often correlate cavities to candy, soda or other sweets. Sugary sweets are an issue, but the problem is not only how much a person eats or drinks, but also how often. For most people, having sweets after a meal as dessert will not significantly increase the risk of dental disease (especially if brushing teeth after meals). The greater risk comes from snacking (sugary drinks, sweets, chips,
crackers etc) or other habits which fuel the bacteria in your mouth with sugar such as cough drops or mints. Every time you ingest sugars, bacteria also ingest it and release acid which in turn damages the teeth and gums. So the less you snack, the less damaging acid will be in your mouth.
Kick the Habit
Smoking doubles your risk for gum disease and leads to bad breath, stained teeth, gum disease, tooth loss and potentially oral cancer. Take the New Year as an opportunity to quit smoking or using other tobacco products. This is the most difficult of all the resolutions mentioned and many who are successful often have help. Quitline Iowa (iowa.quitlogix.org) is a rich source of information. Your primary care provider is also a great source of information and can possibly prescribe medicine or other products to help curb the urges as you quit.
Visit the dentist
This one may sound self-serving coming from a dentist, but prevention is the best long term strategy for a healthy teeth and gums. Visiting the dental office for preventive services such as cleanings and fluoride treatments can pay dividends in the end. But if you do have dental issues, catching the problem when it can be a small repair is less costly and has less risk of discomfort or complications than waiting until you feel pain or can see a problem.
In closing, keep your resolutions simple, motivating and have a plan. Hopefully, by keeping things simple, you can avoid dental problems in 2019.