Making New Year’s Resolutions? Don’t Forget Your Oral Health

Have you made your New Year's resolutions yet? Some folks don't bother, while others create a to-do list that they soon forget about as the year progresses. But if you really want to improve your quality of life for the coming year, include the following family dentistry and dental care best practices among your resolutions -- and then act on them!

"I Will Keep Up My Routine Checkups and Cleanings"

After dutifully keeping those traditional twice-yearly dental appointments for many years, it's only natural to slack off a bit as your life becomes busier. You may assume that nothing significant can change inside your mouth over a six-month period -- and this is indeed the case for many lucky people. But if you have periodontal disease or another condition that puts you at high risk for dental complications, then you might need even more than two visits to the dentist office each year. Studies have revealed that people with periodontal disease who scheduled more than two checkups per year enjoyed a lower rate of tooth extraction that those who merely followed the standard protocol. Let your dentist decide how often you should get checkups -- and then obey that schedule!

Routine dental visits involves more than just inspecting the teeth and gums. Dentists also take this opportunity to examine the tongue, throat, oral cavity and neck for signs of serious illnesses such as oral cancer. Oral cancer can be quite aggressive, but you might notice any obvious signs of trouble until the disease has reached an advanced stage. Your dentist has the right skill, experience and equipment to identify a wide range of disorders early enough to implement effective treatment. That's reason enough to resolve to keep your appointments!

"I Will Get That Long-delayed Treatment"

If you've been told that you need to schedule a root canal session, crown, periodontal disease treatment or other significant dental procedure, you may put it on the back burner until it's convenient for you. This is especially true if your dental problem is causing you no real pain or other troublesome issues. Unfortunately, leaving a problem untreated can escalate it until you suffer from tooth loss or even more serious health problems. An infected tooth that doesn't receive root canal therapy, for instance, can disintegrate to the point that it must be extracted, which in turn can cause surrounding teeth to shift position. An infection that isn't dealt with can spread to other parts of the body, including the heart or brain.

Even a small filling needs to be attended to sooner rather than later. After all, tooth decay doesn't simply reach a certain level and then stop -- it progressively destroys more and more enamel until bacteria can reach the pulp inside the tooth. Now you need a full-blown root canal instead of a filling. Resolve to nip any pressing dental problems in the bud this year!

"I Will Adopt Tooth-friendly Dietary Habits"

Some of the most common New Year's resolutions involve modified eating habits, especially after holiday gluttony leads to expanding waistlines. But don't just resolve to "eat better" -- make specific dietary choices that support better dental health. These may include:

  • Eating more calcium-rich foods such as cheese to support strong tooth enamel
  • Reducing alcohol consumption, since alcohol dries the mouth and makes teeth more vulnerable to bacteria
  • Eating more crunchy raw foods, such as fruits and vegetables, to help remove plaque from teeth
  • Consuming more Vitamin C for healthier gums
  • Avoiding sugary foods, which attract destructive oral bacteria and promote tooth decay
  • Avoiding highly acidic foods and beverages, a known factor in tooth erosion

If you want to expand the scale and ambition of this resolution, then resolve to extend these practices to your entire family by serving tooth-healthy meals and not keeping soda, sugary candy or other damaging "treats" in the house. Your entire household can enjoy a healthier new year -- which can also improve the health of your bank account by reducing the number of dental procedures you have to pay for.

So when you're making your list of New Years' resolutions, why not resolve to make your mouth a healthier place? The changes you make this year can have a hugely positive impact for many happy New Years to come!