One of the most common resolutions many Americans make going into the new year is becoming a healthier version of themselves. New diets, gym memberships, and healthy choices are very prevalent in January. However, many people forget one of the biggest pillars of living a healthy lifestyle … maintaining good oral health! In order to keep up a healthy smile, it's important that you develop a dental plan and establish a good relationship with your dentist. At NKC Dental, we understand how easy it can be to put off a dental appointment. There are many common factors such as anxiety and financial issues that can get in the way of easily scheduling a visit. Because these issues are so common, we developed a list that will make reaching your dental health goals feel like a breeze in 2020!
Begin by understanding your own dental health needs.
Take a few moments to evaluate what your dental health goals are. Is it a whiter smile? Straighter teeth? Maybe it isn't cosmetic, but rather an issue in your mouth that's been giving you trouble for a while. Either way - cosmetic or otherwise - you should first start by scheduling a visit. Whether it's to see your hygienist or dentist, you should work together to develop a plan to address all your needs. We advise you to do this soon! Early planning for the year is crucial for many reasons. First, we want to make sure any serious issues are addressed and there is time to adjust and schedule any necessary appointments throughout the year. We wouldn't want you to wait until the last minute and find there are no available appointments left! Further, there are many special conditions that require special oral hygiene/treatment practices. For example, pregnancy, heart disease, cancers, and more can all impact oral health and may require changes in the care of your mouth and/or teeth. Be sure to let your dentist know of any changes in your general health or any medications so the two of you can carefully discuss further treatment and special care options. Another important reason you should begin your dental planning early is for insurance purposes. You want to get the most out of your benefits and developing a treatment plan early in the year can help you allot where your money and benefits go.
Develop your own dental hygiene routine - that you can stick to!
After meeting with your dentist or hygienist, you should have gained a little more insight on some dental hygiene practices you can do from home. Some of you may have already established a solid routine that incorporates these practices, but for those of you that have not, it's important to start a routine that works for you. For instance, if you know you aren't the best flosser, try sitting your floss somewhere that's highly visible before you go to bed or after you get up in the morning. If you have any conditions such as pregnancy or diabetes that require special care, stick to the commitment of the added tasks. You (and your dentist) will be proud you did! In addition to flossing two to three times daily, you should incorporate brushing twice daily and using a fluoride mouth rinse. These practices will aid in fighting cavities and keep you from visiting the dentist more than you need to.
Eat a Balanced Diet and Limit Snacking
In addition to good oral hygiene practices at home, you should attempt to stick to a diet that's good for oral health. It’s important to eat a variety of different foods but work to eliminate or cut down on foods that contain excess sugars and starches. Foods like cookies, cakes, pies, ice creams, potato chips, and soft drinks produce the most acids in your mouth which will result in beginning the decay process. If you just can't help your snacking desire, be sure to do a quick rinse or brush your teeth afterwards.
Stop Using Tobacco!
Not only does smoking cigarettes or using smokeless tobacco cause tooth discoloration and bad breath, it increases your risk for oral cancer and cancer of the larynx, pharynx, and esophagus! The use of tobacco also increases your risk of gum disease and other oral/general health problems. If you are a tobacco user, you should increase your oral exams throughout the year, since you are at an risk of developing serious oral conditions.
Examine Your Mouth Regularly
It's important to become very familiar with the appearance of your teeth and mouth through frequent self-examination. That way, you can detect changes very early and let your dentist know right away. Some things to really be on the lookout for include development of any spots, lesions, cuts, swelling or growth on your gums, tongue, cheeks, inside of your lips, and floor and roof of your mouth. Look for any chips or cracks on your teeth and discoloration or looseness. If you notice any of these changes or change in your bite, you should give your dentist office a call right away.
Visit your Dentist Often Throughout the Year
After you complete your initial visits with your dentist and/or hygienist, you should still strive to visit them on a regular basis, even if no treatment is needed. The standard recommendation is to visit your dentist twice a year for general check-ups and cleanings.
Don't be afraid to ask for more information on treatment or procedures you aren't totally familiar with. Ideally, you should feel comfortable enough to have a free and frank discussion with your hygienist, dentist, or dental assistants. Here are some questions that are important to ask:
- What are the treatment options for a particular dental condition? (Crowns, root canals, etc.)
- How do these options differ in cost and durability?
- Do all the options solve the issue? What are the benefits and drawbacks of each option?
- Of the dental treatments being recommended, which are absolutely necessary, and which are less urgent?
- What are the consequences of delaying treatment?
Don't hesitate to keep asking questions until you feel completely comfortable with your treatment plan. We want to help you reach your dental health goals in 2020 and we'll work to ensure that you feel educated and confident moving forward into the year.