Many people ring in a new year by making health-related resolutions to improve their lives, but how many of those lifestyle changes are kept past January? The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), a professional association of more than 35,000 general dentists dedicated to staying up to date in the profession through continuing education, has compiled some easy-to-keep oral health tips that consumers can work into their everyday routines and continue to perform throughout the year.
“Oral health means more than just an attractive smile,” says AGD spokesperson Raymond Martin, DDS, MAGD. “Poor oral health and untreated oral diseases and conditions can have a significant impact on quality of life. And, in many cases, the condition of the mouth mirrors the condition of the body as a whole.”
- Floss every day. It’s the single most important factor in preventing gum disease, which affects more than 50 percent of adults. Spend two to three minutes flossing at least once a day. Not flossing because it irritates your gums? The more often you floss, the tougher your gums will become.
- Brush your teeth for at least two to three minutes twice daily. If you’re not sure whether you’re brushing long enough, simply brush for the length of an entire song on the radio.
- Change your toothbrush or toothbrush head (if you’re using an electric toothbrush) before the bristles become splayed and frayed, or every three to four months. Not only are old toothbrushes ineffective, they may harbor harmful bacteria that can cause infections, such as gingivitis and gum disease.
- Drink sugary beverages through a straw. This will minimize the amount of time that the sugars are in contact with your teeth, which can minimize the risk of developing cavities.
- Replace carbonated beverages, which cause enamel erosion and cavities, with water, milk, tea, or coffee.
- Chew sugarless gum that contains xylitol after meals and snacks. This will help cleanse your mouth and prevent the bacteria associated with cavities from attaching to your teeth. Even better, gum will increase your saliva production and reduce bad breath!
- Wait one hour to brush your teeth after consuming highly acidic food or drinks, like wine, coffee, citrus fruits, and soft drinks. Otherwise, you run the risk of wearing away the enamel on your teeth.
“One last reminder to patients is that they should make an appointment to see their general dentist every six months,” adds Dr. Martin. “More than 90 percent of all systemic diseases have oral manifestations, meaning that your dentist could be the first health care provider to diagnose a health problem.”