The Best Oral Health Practices For 2021

Out with the old: UFOs released by the FBI, unknown illnesses, and a general sense of unease. After a year like this one, the entire world is in desperate need of a reset button. Let’s leave this dumpster fire of the year 2020 behind us and focus on the promise of 2021. In with the new!

While we don’t always think that New Year’s resolutions are a good idea (because let’s be real: Does anyone actually follow them?), we do think that it’s always a good idea to focus on you. Yes, you, the person reading this right now. Your health and wellness need to be the main focus in your life, friend. Taking care of yourself and ensuring that you’re putting your health first should be something that you take seriously.

While your mental and physical health are getting checked into, remember also that your teeth need to be given a clean bill as well. A regular oral hygiene routine doesn’t just give you a brighter smile and minty fresh breath, it can also prevent disease and illness. This New Year, as you get your bodily health straightened out, focus also on the wellness of your teeth and mouth.

Make a Bi-Yearly Dentist Appointment

There are plenty of sweet reasons to visit the dentist. You get a free toothbrush, for one. For another, you get kudos from the dentist for being on top of it, which is basically a verbal gold star. Among the top reasons? You can people-watch other patients being escorted to the car by their loved ones, drooling and babbling under the effects of medication.

But the best reason of all is to ensure that everything inside your mouth is working as it should be. Your general dentist and their assistant will carefully look over your teeth and tongue, checking for cavities or the beginnings of gum disease, and will also give your teeth a nice deep cleaning. If there are no cavities to fill and you can leave without a rubber mouth, congratulations! You can skip to the dental clinic’s receptionist and make your next appointment.

It’s important to stay on top of your six-month appointments especially because things can change so fast. Think about where bacteria like to hide: Dark, moist places with a steady warm temperature. The inside of your mouth fits that description perfectly, and if bacteria is starting to form, it can spread quickly. Guard your teeth against bacteria and germs that can make you sick by making sure the dentist regularly takes a good look at them.

Change Your Eating Habits

No, this is not a weight-loss article, but eating a steady diet of fresh fruits and vegetables can be amazingly beneficial to your teeth. Crunchy, snappy veggies like celery and carrots help to strengthen your jaw and teeth and are also full of fiber and other good-for-you vitamins. Apples and crisp pears are also great for your teeth and are loaded with nutrients that help your body.

Where fruits and vegetables help strengthen your teeth, sugar and acid do the opposite: Weaken them. Try to limit or avoid sugary, caffeinated drinks like soda and those multisyllabic foo-foo coffees you love so much. (No judgment; who doesn’t have a standby coffee order?). Acidy foods will also weaken tooth enamel over time, which will break your teeth down and make them weak. Even if the recommendation is twice a day, consider brushing more often when you eat/drink a particularly sugar or acidy food.

Don’t Lie About Flossing

We all tell the dentist that we floss. Most of us are lying. However, in any form of personal health, preventative care is one of the best ways that you can prevent illness. The same goes for your teeth. You already know the American Dental Association (ADA) recommendation for healthy teeth: Brush with fluoride toothpaste twice every day for at least two minutes. Brushing can only reach so far, though.

Tiny food particles get caught between your teeth that the bristles of your toothbrush can’t reach, and what does food do in a dark, moist location? Yup, it starts to rot. And rotten food will contain bacteria, which, sequentially, can cause illness. And this whole science project is happening inside your mouth!

This is where dental floss becomes the hero of this story. As much as it is universally hated, flossing your teeth is an important part of a regular dental care routine. Floss digs between your teeth to catch those tiny food particles and whatever else might be hiding there. Don’t forget to rinse with antibacterial mouthwash when you’re done to ensure a clean, sanitized mouth. Impress your dentist with a confident “Yes I do!” when you are asked the million-dollar question.

Scrub Your Tongue

Remember when you were little and brushing your teeth, and Mom would be in the background saying “Remember to brush your tongue!” For some reason that irritates little kids, but if you’re an adult and still hear Mom’s voice as you brush, then she did her job.

Your tongue is the muscle that gives you a voice, so, if for nothing else, why shouldn’t you maintain its health? All dentists will tell you that brushing your tongue is an imperative part of brushing your teeth; your tongue collects all kinds of residue from anything that you put inside your mouth. It is a breeding ground for plaque and bacteria, which can spread to your teeth in to form of tartar — and we’re not talking about the sauce you eat with fish sticks. Only dentists can remove tartar buildup, which can be costly and painful to take care of.

If you want to get really zealous, you can use a tongue scraper to help you. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; a spoon can work just fine. However, please use common sense. Don’t shove the instrument down your throat, don’t gag yourself, and of course don’t use anything sharp to clean your tongue. Thoroughly clean whatever you use to scrape your tongue with hot water and soap, or throw it in the dishwasher.

Get Your Kids Looked At, Too

Did you know that your baby should visit the dentist as soon as they start showing their first teeth? It’s never too early to worry about your children’s dental health, too. When you make an appointment with your dental office, ask if they specialize in children’s care, too. If not, you will likely be referred to a children’s dentistry, which is staffed with doctors who know the inner workings of little mouths better than general dentistry.

If this will be the first visit for your child, there are ways to alleviate stress and make kiddos feel more excited about going. Here are a few of our favorite tricks:

  • Read picture books with little ones to show them what will happen; two of our favorites are The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist by Stan and Jan Berenstain and Curious George Visits the Dentist by H. A. Rey. Seeing familiar characters in an unfamiliar setting can be a great tool for putting children at ease, and you can even help empower them during a scary visit. “Remember when Curious George went to the dentist? This is just like him!”
  • Call up your dental office and ask if there’s any way that you and your nervous kiddo can do a walkthrough ahead of time. Ask if the dentist can show your child the tools, instruments, and equipment needed during the whole process. This lets everyone know what to expect, and your child can put a name to the tools.
  • Show no anxiety or fear about their upcoming appointment. Only radiate positivity and excitement about the dentist’s office. “Oh, good! You get to have your teeth looked at next week, you’re so lucky!” It might sound corny, but little kids don’t notice that and will only pick up on your attitude. If they sense nervousness from you, they will internalize it.

Even if it’s less convenient than everyone visiting the same office, it’s worth seeing a dentist just for kids. Children’s dentistry offices know how to work with little ones and calm their fears, all while cleaning their mouths and checking them for good health. Make their bi-yearly appointments something to look forward to rather than dread.

Be Brave If You’re Scared

As humans, our teeth are some of the most important tools that we have. Our very ancestors used them for everything from eating to fighting back when we all lived in caves. It’s an ancient instinct to protect our teeth, and it’s an unnatural feeling to have someone else rooting around in our mouths. Fear of the dentist’s office is not just some weird quirk, it speaks to one of the oldest parts of your soul.

People like your family dentist love everything about the dental care process, from the whirring of the drills to the shape of your teeth. There’s a perfectly good reason that they chose the profession that they did. However, most other people do not share that passion and look at the dentist’s office as a place of dread. Tools! Foreign objects! Pain!

Look, we get it. Some people launch into full-scale panic attacks while sitting in that chair and it’s to be expected to some degree — but don’t let fear stop you from getting your teeth looked at. The doctor already knows many people like you, and there are ways to help you feel more comfortable during a visit.

  • Talk to your dentist about the procedure and explain your anxieties. Like we said, your dentist already has patients like you and will almost definitely be happy to show you every tool and let you know what will be happening. Depending on your level of squeamishness, it might comfort you to know exactly what will be happening and what your body will be undergoing. It’s not just a trick for little kids!
  • When making your appointment, ask about sedation dentistry. This is a method used by some dental offices that relaxes you with medication upon your visit. There are different levels of sedation dentistry, ranging from a mild “high” that helps you chill out to being full-scale knocked out. It is not something that all offices will utilize, though, so be sure that you know whether or not it’s a possibility ahead of time.
  • Put something else in your ears instead of the sounds of dental fillings. Bring a pair of ear pods with you and listen to something that you enjoy: Music, ambient sounds, or even podcasts or recorded books. If you can focus your attention elsewhere, you will be less prone to pay attention to the medical procedure happening above you.

Ignore the Neanderthal voice in your head commanding you to ignore the dentist at all costs. You know that a clean mouth is a healthy mouth, and if you’re not making regular visits then how do you know yours is healthy? It’s already been too long if you’re experiencing pain or discomfort in your teeth, and pain can lead to more serious consequences later on. Your teeth need to be taken care of for the sake of your overall health. Find ways to cope with the fear and march boldly forward.

Nobody needs to add a little weird to the New Year — this one has been weird enough. Make 2021 the year that you take care of your health from head to toe. Don’t put off doctor’s visits any longer and schedule all of your exams, including your own and your kiddos’ dental visits. What better way to begin the bi-yearly tradition than right at the beginning of the new year?

If you or somebody you know actually enjoy going to the dentist, then you are a far more advanced species than most. However, simple dread and fear don’t give you an excuse to ignore regular dental check-ups and good oral hygiene. Take care of your teeth by following a daily toothbrushing routine, including the much-loathed dental floss. Schedule your appointments, and maintain them every six months. You deserve to be healthy as much as anybody else. Ensure that 2021 has your health at heart.

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