Eight Resolutions to Smile About This New Year

Our New Year’s resolutions usually focus on improving our physical and mental health. But did you remember your teeth when making goals for 2015?

By now, your New Year’s resolutions have you hitting the gym three times a week, and reading that novel for the book club you joined this month. But have you also flossed every day, and avoided those sugary foods that cause cavities? Tack these eight resolutions onto your list for a healthy, happy mouth.

While your physical and mental health are important, do not forget about your oral health this year. Encourage everyone in your family to embrace these eight resolutions.

1. Keep good habits.

Brush your teeth twice per day for 2 minutes each time, floss at least once per day, and use mouthwash regularly.

2. Schedule routine checkups.

We recommend having a professional cleaning and dental checkup every six months. Your dentist checks for decay and disease, and cleans your teeth until they sparkle. An oral cancer screening is performed during your routine exam as well, and as with any other cancer, early detection is important. Remember to schedule your appointments for 2015.

3. Avoid foods that cause cavities.

Chewy, sticky, sugary foods get stuck in the grooves and pits of our teeth. If not brushed away properly, you are more prone to cavities.

I should mention that 20 percent of children between the ages two and four have at least one cavity, as do nearly 80 percent of all children under the age of 17.

Make sure your children are avoiding cavity-inducing foods and brushing their teeth properly to avoid pesky dental decay as well.

4. Stay away from acidic foods and drinks.

The deterioration of enamel, which is caused by too much acidity in your mouth, can weaken, or even destroy, your teeth.

Lemons, soda and hard candies all increase the levels of acidity in our mouths, causing enamel erosion. Health conditions like acid reflux disease and alcoholism also contribute.

Read more about enamel erosion here.

5. Brush your tongue.

Patients are always surprised when I remind them of this. But the truth is, the bacteria lingering on your tongue secretes volatile-sulfur compounds (VSC), which give off a rotten egg smell.

If you want to steer clear of bad breath, brushing your tongue is essential to integrate into your daily oral routine. Read more about the causes and solutions of bad breath here.

6. Chew gum with xylitol.

Most people think chewing a stick of minty-fresh gum can combat bad breath. In reality, sugary foods can lead to even more bacteria, which can weaken your enamel and lead to dental decay.

Xylitol, on the other hand, is a plant-based, naturally-occurring product typically used as a sugar substitute. It tastes sweet, but unlike sugar, it works to reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth, and does not alter our mouth’s acidity levels. If you’re feeling the urge to chew a piece of gum or have a mint, try to limit it to products that are sugar free and contain xylitol.

7. Get your TMJ evaluated.

If you wake up in the morning feeling pain in your teeth and jaw, you could be clenching your teeth while sleeping.

Clenching causes pain in your temporomandibular joint, or TMJ – the chewing muscles and joints that connect your skull to your lower jaw.

It can also wear down the enamel on the surface of your teeth, posing an entire different set of issues for your pearly whites.

This year, make it a priority to get your TMJ checked by a dentist. If a custom-made mouthguard is prescribed for your TMJ, vow to wear it nightly. Read more about TMJ here.

8. Stop chewing ice.

This is a common habit among children and adults alike. However, it is a habit that can chip or break your teeth. Nix it now!

Remember, it takes five or six weeks to make or break a habit. Embed these resolutions into your routine as soon as possible for a happy, healthy mouth.

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