At the risk of serious cliche, I have decided to post a list of ways to help you protect your teeth in 2011. Of course, these aren’t resolutions. I won’t call it a “top 10” list, and to be honest, it applies no matter what time of year it is. But… people always seem to inspire themselves to make changes as the calendar flips on another year, so here goes: my “non-list of ways you can improve your dental health in 2011 and beyond.”
- Cut back on the snacks. Sure, you can eat pretty much whatever you want (although I’d stay away from the gummy bears), but the problem comes from consistent snacking. It creates a very acidic environment in your mouth, which erodes your teeth and makes it a perfect resting spot for bacteria that can lead to cavities.
- Don’t eat the sticky stuff. We all know that chewy candies probably aren’t the best snack when we need an afternoon pick-me-up, but we do it anyway. The fact is, if you want to avoid cavities, then stop eating the stuff that sticks in your teeth for hours after you’re done eating them (this includes dried fruit, which really isn’t much different from a sour gummy worm).
- Watch what you drink. Coffee and tea not only stain your teeth, but they are very acidic. So is wine and orange juice. And most people sip on something all day long. So stop already! If you need to sip on something, sip on water. Heat it if you have to. Enjoy your acidic beverages in moderation and your dental health stands a better chance of improvement.
- Brush and floss. I know… “duh”, right? But the simple fact is, most people just don’t brush often enough, long enough, or properly… and don’t even get me started on flossing! So grab a good, soft toothbrush and put one in your desk at work, in your bathroom at home, in your car… anywhere you may snack. Brush after you eat and you’ll not only avoid costly trips to the dentist, but you’ll also have better breath.
- Don’t worry about fluoride. Everyone tells you that you need fluoride to prevent cavities… but the science shows that ingested fluoride has little to no affect on your teeth and topical fluoride needs to be at dangerously high levels to have an adverse affect (oh, which reminds me, fluoride is toxic. It’s a byproduct of fertilizer and was/is used in rat poison. You get more than the EPA recommended limit in your daily food intake alone, so no, you do not need to drink fluoridated water). Plus, it can have some serious side-effects with your bones (including links to bone cancer and more). So grab a fluoride-free toothpaste at the store or, better yet, avoid the toothpaste altogether… you don’t need it to prevent cavities. The brush alone will do the trick.
- Visit the dentist. Look, the best way to save money at the dentist is to go more often. We all get a cavity eventually… but waiting and avoiding the dentist will turn an inexpensive filling into a pricey inlay, crown, or extraction. So go to the dentist and take care of the problems while they are still small so you can prevent things from getting too big.
- Drink more water. Drinking water is a great way to keep your mouth clean and free of bacteria. So drink more. It’s that simple (oh, and if you have access to a good, high pH water, there’s a mounting body of evidence suggesting alkaline water has sweeping health benefits, along with dental benefits).
- Get your bite balance. No idea what I’m talking about? That’s because most dentists don’t do it anymore. However, all of us, over time, use one side of our mouth over the other. Or we clench or grind at night (or during the day), or we’ve had some sort of jaw trauma (maybe we stepped into the ring with Manny Pacquiao). As we start to favor one side, the muscles tighten and pull our jaw out of alignment. This means our teeth don’t come together properly. The result can be anything from tooth wear to TMJ problems, to chronic decay. So, visit a dentist who understands occlusal adjustments (bite adjustments) and have yours checked out… if you’re always getting cavities in the lower left (or any other specific area of the mouth), this could be a simple fix.
Prevention is the key here folks. I understand most people don’t get excited about a trip to the dentist… and I don’t blame them. But anyone who thinks that all dentists are just out to find problems so they can stay in business is naive and, I think, more than a little cynical. I would MUCH rather have patients who take care of themselves at home than to drill on teeth. I’d rather repair a tooth that broke in hockey fight than one than crumbled apart because someone didn’t think flossing was worth the 60 seconds it takes. So, take care of yourself at home; take these tips seriously, and you can save yourself a lot of time and money in 2011 and beyond!