With the beginning of 2014 comes the return of our New Year’s resolutions. Each of us has our own personal list of goals and accomplishments we wish to achieve. Many of these resolutions revolve around health and fitness and so I’d like to talk a little bit about some daily routines that you may implement into improving your oral and systemic health this New Year. Here are 14 easy ways to help protect your teeth for 2014:
- Brush your teeth after each meal (or at least in the morning and before bed). Give about 30–60 minutes after a meal to allow the acidity in your mouth to neutralize before scrubbing your pearly whites. But brushing too much, too hard, or with a hard-bristle brush can erode your enamel. Brush gently, using circular strokes and a soft bristled brush.
- Chew sugar free gum. The physical act of chewing increases the flow of saliva in your mouth and helps remove sticky foods from the surfaces of teeth. If you chew after eating, the increased salivary flow can help neutralize and wash away the acids that promote the breakdown of enamel.
- Floss daily. It’s rare when patients tell me they love to floss. And that’s fine I tell them, floss only the teeth you wish to keep! Flossing isn’t so much about removing food debris as it is about removing dental plaque. Plaque is what causes tooth decay, inflamed gums (gingivitis), periodontal disease, and eventually tooth loss. Flossing or using an interdental cleaner is the only effective way to remove plaque between teeth.
- Limit the intake of high sugar, starchy and “sticky” fermentable carbohydrates. Soda, juice, milk, honey, table sugar, dried fruit, cookies, candy, dry cereal and chips. Just a few that come to mind. Drink water after consuming these foods.
- Visit the dentist and have your teeth cleaned at least twice a year. One of my favorites on the list! How else can we monitor what you are doing well and well, not so well?
- Replace missing teeth. People with missing teeth on average have more digestive problems because they cannot chew their foods as well. Dental implants are among the finest services available to replace missing teeth. They are also excellent when used to anchor existing dentures securely to increase chewing ability. Poorly fitting dentures that flop around are extremely difficult to chew with and make it difficult to absorb the essential nutrients from the foods you are eating.
- Control acid reflux. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) causes acid erosion of enamel and destruction of the digestive tract.
- Dry mouth (xerostomia) prevention. The side effect of many medications is dry mouth which can cause severe root decay. Adding a dry mouth relief product, such as Biotene can help. Ask the dentist.
- Fluoride rinse. Those who are prone to cavities and have had substantial amount of dental work done can certainly benefit from a fluoride rinse as directed by the dentist. It can also help remineralize areas that have begun to show signs of tooth decay.
- Remove destructive habits such as ice chewing, biting fingernails, pen chewing. A surefire way to break your teeth. You know who you are.
- Wear a night guard. This will help to prevent premature destruction of teeth as well as help with the symptoms of temporomandibular disease (TMD) in people who grind and clench their teeth (like me!). Yes, it will take you time to get use to wearing (a few days to a few weeks). No, it won’t help you if you leave it in the case we give it to you in.
- Don’t use your teeth as tools. I saw too much of this over the holidays. Popping off bottle caps and ripping open potato chip bags can crack or break your teeth. Two of my patients in the last three days already have confirmed this for me.
- Bottled water. No fluoride in bottled water. Try to get in some filtered tap water at home.
- No Smoking. Do we really have to go over this? Smoking impedes the ability of the gum tissue to maintain a healthy state and fight off disease-creating bacteria. Almost half of the people who are over 60 who wear dentures are smokers. I could write for days on all the other problems it creates…
Wishing you a Happy and Healthy New Year!