New Year, New You? 7 Tips to Make Your Oral Health a Top Priority
Most New Year’s resolutions typically revolve around eating better, exercising more or improving your financial situation. One key to achieving your resolution is to make it specific. This year, if you’re looking to set a realistic goal, consider making oral hygiene your focus — it’s crucial to your overall well-being and quality of life.
Oral health is crucial to your overall health. Research shows neglecting oral hygiene can result in an increased risk for myriad health problems, including tooth decay, tooth loss, heart disease, diabetes, oral cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases that can contribute to a shorter lifespan, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC estimates that more than one in four adults have untreated tooth decay, almost half of all adults over 30 show signs of gum disease and nearly one in 10 adults have severe gum disease.
Good oral health helps you enjoy life — it lets you speak clearly, taste, chew, swallow and savor delicious and nutritious foods — not to mention lets you smile brightly.
To protect your oral health, here are 7 tips for good oral hygiene practices and preventive care:
Brushing and beyond. To keep your teeth healthy, it is important to remove dental plaque, a sticky, colorless film of bacteria. Plaque buildup can cause tooth decay and gum disease. Brush twice daily with these tips:
- Use a soft-bristled brush.
- Use a fluoride toothpaste.
- Angle the bristles toward the gumline, so they clean between the gums and teeth.
- Brush gently using small, circular motions. Do not scrub hard back and forth.
- Brush all sides of each tooth.
- Lightly brush your tongue or use a tongue scraper to help keep your mouth clean.
- After brushing, spit out the extra toothpaste in your mouth but don’t rinse with water. The fluoride in the toothpaste will then remain on your teeth to better help strengthen tooth enamel and prevent decay.
- Replace your toothbrush every three or four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. A worn toothbrush won’t do a good job of cleaning your teeth.
Floss up. Clean between your teeth once each day to prevent gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease that shows up as red, swollen, or bleeding gums. You can usually reverse gingivitis with daily brushing and flossing.
Doctor, doctor. Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings every six months (or more frequently as advised by your dentist).
Stay hydrated. Drink fluoridated water. Drinking water with the right amount of fluoride protects your teeth throughout the day.
Kick the habit. Don’t smoke. Smoking increases your chance of gum disease.
Be proactive. During pregnancy, it is especially important to practice good oral hygiene to maintain the health of your gums. If you are planning to become pregnant, have a dental checkup. Because of hormonal changes, pregnant women may experience gums that are swollen and bleed easily.
Eat healthy. Eat a healthy diet that limits sugary beverages and snacks. If you chew gum, use only sugarless gum.
Resources for you. The UIC College of Dentistry offers services in comprehensive, urgent and specialty care. To schedule an appointment, please visit: https://dentistry.uic.edu/patients/request-an-appointment/.