So the end of 2017 is upon us and like many, you might be thinking of some New Years Resolutions. However, how many of you have considered improving your oral hygiene as one of those? It is rare I see a patient for the first time who doesn't have something they could do to improve the way they care for their teeth, so it is unlikely there is nothing that can be done for you! I recently published an article on how to care for your teeth (so take a look at that for more information), however there are a few resolutions which could benefit many of us.
1. FLOSS FLOSS and more FLOSS!!
This is something I cannot stress enough. Yes it is boring. Yes it takes time. But please do me a favour and if you don't believe me how important it is, floss once after not brushing all day and smell the floss. Yep, smell it. Gross right? - that bacteria is sat in between your teeth, working its magic to cause caries (decay) and halitosis (bad breath). Ew.
2. Buy a new toothbrush...or toothbrush head.
Are the bristles on your toothbrush flat and splayed? Faded and falling out? Its definitely time to purchase a new one. Growing up, I used a basic Oral B toothbrush which I would estimate cost roughly £1. I recently started using an electric one as I personally believe my teeth feel cleaner this way, however there is no excuse for old, manky toothbrush heads, especially when they can be sooooo cheap. One thing I recommend is buying them in bulk whilst on offer (if you use an electric brush). Wholesale stores like Costco do great deals if you are able to go there, and even own brand heads can be good. Once the bristles become too soft and flattened, they do not clean as well, so make it your resolution to keep on top of this throughout the year. Having spares can prevent you getting caught out.
3. Cut down snacking!
This resolution may kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. As I explained in a previous post on caring for your teeth, the frequency of intake of food plays a huge part in whether or not you get decay. Snacking regularly means the teeth are frequently in an acidic environment (even if the food you are eating is sugary, not acidic itself), being softened or breaking down. Therefore try to limit meals to 3 times per day, with a maximum of 2 snacks. Even sugar in tea or coffee counts as a snack, as it is damaging to your teeth.
4. Glass of Fizz?
My 4th resolution recommendation is cutting down on fizzy drinks. Even fizzy water has a damaging effect on your teeth due to its acidic components and yes...so does diet, sugar free and zero drinks. If you can't resist, drinking through a straw may help, or at least limiting these drinks to meal times. Sipping on them throughout the day is a big no go!
5. STOP. SMOKING. PLEASE.
Smoking increases your risk of multiple diseases, however as a dentist a huge concern is oral cancer. Alone, smoking can increase your risk of oral cancer by 5 times, and combined with excessive consumption of alcohol this increases to roughly 35 times. I currently work in a general hospital helping care for and manage patients with oral cancer. Treatment for this can be extremely invasive and devastating for some patients, therefore I insist my patients quit smoking. This is a very difficult thing to ask of them, however the consequences of smoking can be immense. It has been shown that getting professional support through the process of quitting increases the chance of success and medications are available to help with this. It has also been shown that failure to quit doesn't mean you cannot succeed in the future, often it takes more than one attempt. Speak to your GP or dentist for advice if you are considering cutting down or stopping smoking. On a similar note, there is not currently enough evidence on the effects of ecigarettes to suggest they are a safe alternative, therefore this is not something I personally recommend to my patients.
I hope you attempt one of the above resolutions this year and it makes a difference for you. Happy New Year! - Wishing you a wonderful 2018.
Dr Bethany Rushworth