If you're taking the opportunity of the new year to improve your health, don't forget about your teeth. Oral health can affect overall health, so taking better care of your teeth and gums is important for more than reducing stains and bad breath.
This could just mean improving what you're already doing every day to help prevent tooth decay, gum disease and other problems or talking to your dentist if you think you have an existing problem you want to fix.
Whatever you want to improve about your oral health or your smile, setting small, achievable goals can be the best way to succeed. Here are 10 dental resolutions you might want to keep in 2022.
1. Brush twice a day
Tooth brushing is the foundation of preventive dental care, but many Australians don't brush as often as recommended. According to the latest survey of adult oral health in Australia, just over half (53%) of adults brush their teeth twice a day.
Brushing should ideally be done first thing in the morning and before going to sleep. This helps to remove leftover food and prevent the build-up of bacteria during the day and to remove plaque that may have built up during the night when you're not rinsing your mouth.
It's important not to brush too soon after you eat or drink something. This is because acids left behind on teeth surfaces can temporarily weaken the enamel, which may be damaged when you brush. Wait at least 30 minutes and rinse your mouth in the meantime.
Use a pea-sized blob of fluoride toothpaste and leave some toothpaste on your teeth at the end so they will benefit from the extra protection. Young children under 7 should use children's low-fluoride toothpaste and be taught to spit it out, as swallowing too much fluoride may stain developing teeth.
Brush your teeth gently in circular motions for two minutes to ensure a thorough clean, spending equal time cleaning the front, back and chewing or biting surfaces of each tooth. If you're not sure how long you're brushing for, you can use a timer, play music or download a toothbrushing app for your phone.
2. Replace your toothbrush
Has it been longer than 3 months since you last changed your toothbrush? If you can't remember, it's likely that you're due for a replacement. Choose a toothbrush or toothbrush head that fits comfortably in your mouth and has soft bristles.
If you're considering updating to an electric toothbrush, this could help to make brushing easier or more comfortable if you find it difficult to use a manual toothbrush. Otherwise, a manual toothbrush can do the job just as well.
Dentists recommend replacing your toothbrush or electric toothbrush head every 3 months or sooner if you notice the bristles fraying or bending out of shape, you've had an illness or you're not satisfied with your current toothbrush.
3. Floss every day
Flossing is as important as brushing for removing bacteria and food from between your teeth. If you don't floss regularly, bacteria can build up between the teeth in plaque, leading to tooth decay and gum disease. Over time, plaque can harden into tartar or calculus, which can only be removed during dental cleans.
Flossing should preferably be done before you brush your teeth in the morning. Holding the floss between your index fingers, gently clean up and down the inside edges of every tooth, moving along the floss as you go.
If you don't like the feeling of floss, or find it difficult to use, your dentist may recommend other options such as a floss threader, interdental brush or water flosser.
4. Cut down on sugar
Almost half of Australian adults (47.8%) consume above the recommended 24 grams (6 teaspoons) of free sugar per day. The figure is significantly higher for children and teens who are more likely to have sugary snacks and drinks in their diets.
Sugar is a valuable source of energy, but consuming more sugar than you need only adds calories and can damage your teeth. Bacteria in plaque feed on sugar and carbohydrates in your food and drink and release acids as a by-product that can wear down tooth enamel and form cavities.
Cutting down on sugar and opting for sugar-free alternatives could be one of the simplest ways to avoid cavities and fillings and lower your risk for other health issues, including obesity and heart disease. As well as the obvious sugary treats, you should avoid drinks such as soft drinks and fruit juices that can be high in sugar and acids that contribute to tooth erosion.
5. Improve your diet
A teeth-friendly diet isn't just about what you avoid. Many vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in a balanced diet help to protect or rebuild teeth, lower your oral health risks and support your health generally. Some of the best foods and drinks for teeth include:
- Milk, cheese and other dairy products that are high in calcium and can neutralise acids on teeth
- Crunchy fruit and vegetables that are high in fibre, scrub plaque off teeth and stimulate saliva flow
- Leafy greens, nuts and legumes containing vital vitamins and antioxidants
6. Drink more water
Making sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day is important for staying hydrated and for keeping dental problems at bay. Water helps to rinse leftover food and bacteria away from teeth, which can be especially vital if you suffer from a dry mouth and produce less saliva.
Choosing tap water over bottled water is even better for your teeth, as most local water supplies in Australia have fluoride added at safe levels. Water fluoridation helps to protect teeth and lowers rates of tooth decay at all ages.
7. Quit smoking
Stained teeth and bad breath are only the start of how smoking can affect your mouth. Smoking and other tobacco products can also increase the risk of dry mouth and gum disease. Smoking is also the leading risk factor for oral cancer, as well as many other health concerns.
If you're struggling to quit completely, reducing the amount you smoke can lower your health risks proportionally, but this can take time. The good news is that smoking rates continue to decline in Australia, with just over 12% of all Australians over 14 saying their smoke every day.
If you're ready to quit the habit, you should talk to your doctor or support services such as Quitline on 13 7848. Make sure the people close to you know about your intention so they can also give you the support you need.
8. Fix your teeth
If you've got a toothache or there's another problem with your teeth and you've been putting off dental care, commit to getting the treatment you need in 2022. Untreated tooth decay and other damage can get worse over time and may lead to more serious problems such as an infection or even tooth loss.
Your dentist can examine your teeth and discuss any restorative treatments that could help. These could include dental bonding to patch up minor imperfections, a filling or crown to repair chips, cracks or cavities or root canal therapy to remove an infection.
If any of your teeth are crowded, stick out or don't fit together properly, your dentist may recommend orthodontic treatments such as braces or clear aligners. These could help to balance your smile and correct problems with eating and speech.
9. Enhance your smile
If your teeth and gums are healthy and you don't have any functional issues to correct, there might be something else you want to change about your smile. You can talk to your dentist about cosmetic dental treatments to find out what your options are for stained or discoloured teeth, gaps, a gummy smile or other cosmetic concerns.
Cosmetic dentistry covers a wide range of treatments, ranging from non-invasive teeth whitening using gels to veneers fitted over teeth and surgery such as a gum lift. Your dentist will make sure you know any possible risks and other information you need to know before you agree to any procedure.
10. Visit the dentist
If it's been longer than 6 months since you last visited a dentist, scheduling a check-up and clean could identify any possible dental disease or issues with hygiene you need to work on. Having plaque and tartar professionally removed from your teeth can also help to lower your oral health risks.
Regular dental visits are recommended every 6 to 12 months, depending on individual needs, although less than half of adults (48.8%) follow this recommendation. It's important to find a dentist you trust and a dental clinic where you feel comfortable.
If you're looking for a new dentist in Brisbane CBD, it's time for your regular check-up and clean or you want to discuss other treatments, contact our friendly team at Face Value Dental to find out how we can help.
1. Australian Dental Association. Australia's Oral Health Tracker [Online] 2020 [Accessed November 2021] Available from: https://www.ada.org.au/Dental-Professionals/Australia-s-Oral-Health-Tracker