The following is the latest article written for the Stay Healthy column for the Capital Democrat dated April 19, 2018.
Through this series of articles a variety of experts have shared specific topics related to their area of expertise. This week I’m going to change things up a bit and discuss a more general topic, that of consistency. I’ll relate this to dentistry later in the article but first want to explain why I chose this topic.
In the past few years I’ve begun to participate in Ironman triathlons. These events are long, taking between 8 hours for a professional and as long as 17 hours for the last finishers. From all the reading, research and conversations with competitors I have had, I have concluded the overlying theme to being successful (however you define that) is to be consistent. There is no magic set of workouts that will allow one to complete the race, rather it depends on swimming, biking and running consistently for many months prior to the event to build up endurance in order to finish. This concept of consistency holds true for not only exercise and athletics, but also many other areas of life.
Consider the areas of life where consistency is the key to success. First and foremost, as many who read this are Christians, it is a clear biblical mandate to be consistent in God’s word and prayer in order to grow mature in faith. School and work are two areas where consistency often leads to success. In this age of short attention spans, it is often the individual who can be consistent in showing up and being engaged in studies or vocation who will succeed.
When you consider your health, consistency is again key. Consider how important it is to consistently exercise regularly, maintain a good diet, bathe, and sleep. Of course, as a dentist, I must emphasize the importance of consistency in oral health – brushing, flossing and regular check-ups.
Regular dental checkups and cleanings are key to good oral health, but that isn’t the message I want to emphasize in this article. The fact is, if you visit the dentist and dental hygienist every 6 months you are only having the teeth cleaned professionally once every 183 days. It is vital to be consistent with home care of your teeth.
Every time you brush and floss your teeth the number of bacteria are reduced, the acidity of the mouth is reduced, and assuming you are using a recommended fluoride toothpaste, the amount of re-mineralizing fluoride ions will be adequate to prevent cavities. There are methods we use in the dental office to boost these effects through professional cleanings and higher concentration fluoride treatments. However, without regular consistent care for your teeth and gums at home, it is difficult for professional treatments to overcome the challenges between appointments.
The final point I’ll make is diet as it relates to the health of your teeth and gums. Bacteria can only use the sugars from the food and drinks that you intake for a short amount of time. Therefore it is best to be consistent in eating three well rounded meals and minimizing snacks or sugary drinks between meals. Every time you eat or drink foods with sugars, the acidity in your mouth increases creating an environment that allows for the minerals to come out of your teeth and bacteria that cause gum disease to thrive. Therefore, a consistently healthy diet will decrease your risks of dental problems.
If you find you are not consistent with oral hygiene routines you are not alone. But don’t lose hope. Changing habits can be hard but research shows that in about two months your behavior will become a new habit. Therefore, for those who are motivated to become consistent, I recommend starting by setting a goal – be it brushing, flossing or starting and exercise routine. Naming the goal is important, then write it down. By putting it on paper and also sharing the goal with others you will gain some accountability. Don’t worry about a year from now, but rather focus on getting through the first couple months. This will allow you to be successful. In my hobby of triathlon, this concept is important – one stroke, pedal, or step at a time. If I think about the task of a 10 hour race it becomes overwhelming, but by focusing on a little chunk of the race at a time, it is achievable. The same can be true for anyone who sets their mind to improving their health one day at a time – consistently.