If you've got a nagging toothache, a suspected cavity, or you think you could be taking better care of your teeth generally, there's no time like New Year for making some positive changes to your health.
Oral health is linked with general health and wellbeing in many ways, so lowering your risk of tooth decay, gum disease and other infections could have wider benefits beyond your mouth.
If you're not sure where to start, read through these 10 new year dental resolutions to see all the ones that could apply to you or your family and take your first steps to a healthier smile in 2021.
1. Improve your diet
If you're already committed to giving up some guilty pleasures for the sake of your health or your waistline, you should also consider what unhealthy food and drink does to your teeth.
When you eat or drink something containing sugar, this also feeds bacteria in your mouth that form plaque. These bacteria release acids that wear down tooth enamel, leading to cavities and discolouration. Sugary food and drink that also contains acid (such as soft drinks, fruit juices and many alcoholic drinks) wears down teeth at an even faster rate.
When you're cutting out the bad stuff, you can give your oral health a further boost by eating more tooth-friendly foods. This includes dairy products that are high in calcium and fruit, vegetables, nuts and legumes that are rich in fibre, vitamins and antioxidants, all of which can help to rebuild and protect teeth, as well as lowering your risk of gum disease.
2. Improve your tooth brushing
Even if you already brush your teeth every day, your technique or even your toothbrush could mean you're not getting the full benefit.
If you only brush once a day, increasing to the recommended twice a day will help to remove more leftover food and prevent plaque from building up on teeth surfaces during the day. Your dentist may recommend brushing even more often if you're trying to improve an oral health issue.
If you tend to brush straight after a meal or snack, this could actually be harming your teeth. This is because acids left on the teeth by food, drink or bacteria soften the enamel and can make it more easily damaged by brushing. You should wait at least 30 minutes after eating or drinking anything sugary or acidic before brushing it away.
Enamel may also be damaged if you scrub your teeth too vigorously or use a toothbrush with hard bristles. Dentists recommend using a soft toothbrush and a gentle brushing action, taking two minutes to make sure all surfaces of your teeth are cleaned equally.
Make sure you're using a fluoride-based toothpaste, as this helps to strengthen tooth enamel against plaque. Low-fluoride toothpaste is safe for children from 18 months to 6 years, as long as they're taught not to swallow.
3. Get flossing
Brushing alone isn't enough to clean your teeth of all food and bacteria. If you frequently have dental problems or bad breath, flossing could be the single biggest improvement you make to your oral health.
Flossing should be done at least once a day, before you brush your teeth in the morning or the evening. If you don't like the way floss feels on your teeth, you can try an interdental cleaner or electric flossers that use water, though these may not offer the same standard of clean.
4. Quit smoking
If 2021 is going to be the year you kick the habit for good, here are some more reasons to quit smoking – tobacco use doubles your gum disease risk and is the single largest risk factor for oral cancer. It also contributes to tooth staining.
Oral health risk factors from smoking are in proportion to the amount you smoke, so even just cutting down can make a big difference. After you give up, your risk level will gradually return to that of a non-smoker, though for heavy smokers this will take a few years.
5. Cut down on alcohol
It's one of the most common resolutions after the overindulgence of the silly season, and avoiding excessive drinking can also help your teeth.
Not only will you be subjecting your teeth to less acid wear and decay, you can also lower your risk of developing other oral health problems. This is because alcohol dries out the mouth, reducing the flow of saliva that's important for rinsing your teeth and neutralising acids.
6. Prevent dental injuries
Accidental injuries can't always be avoided, but by taking responsible preventive measures, you can lower your risk of serious injuries and needing an emergency dentist to repair a chipped, cracked or knocked out tooth or broken jaw.
If you or your kids play contact sports such as rugby, hockey or other activities where there's a high risk of impacts or falls, wearing a custom mouthguard provided by your dentist offers more protection for your teeth and jaws than a standard mouthguard from a store.
7. Repair or replace teeth
If any of your teeth have already been damaged by an injury, decay or other wear, these issues could get worse or cause other problems if they're not treated.
Your dentist can offer a choice of treatments to restore the appearance and function of your smile, including custom-made dental crowns, veneers or bonding to seal minor cracks.
If you're missing any teeth, your dentist can also discuss your options for filling the gap with a dental implant, bridge or partial denture. Gaps in teeth don't only affect how you look, they also mean that the surrounding teeth aren't being supported.
8. Straighten your smile
If you skipped braces as a teenager, or some of your teeth have grown crooked since, teeth straightening is also an option for adults – and it doesn't have to involve braces.
If you don't want to wear braces and prefer a more discreet treatment, your dentist or orthodontist can examine your teeth to let you know whether you're eligible for Invisalign® treatment. This treatment uses clear aligners that are virtually invisible on the teeth. They can also be removed for eating, drinking and cleaning your teeth, making them more convenient than braces.
If your teeth need more straightening than can be achieved with Invisalign, your dentist may also offer more discreet types of braces than the standard metal. These could include ceramic braces, that can be matched to your tooth colour, and lingual braces that attach behind the teeth, out of sight.
9. Whiten your smile
If you're lucky enough to be free from orthodontic and oral health problems, dentists also offer cosmetic treatments to help you put the finishing touches on your smile.
Teeth whitening is the most popular cosmetic dental treatment in Australia, as it's convenient to do at the dental clinic or in your own home. Professional teeth whitening from a dentist can brighten a smile by several shades in a single appointment, while a home whitening kit takes a week or more to achieve similar results.
Either way, it's important to discuss your whitening goals with your dentist so they can check that your teeth are suitable and plan your personalised treatment. Your dentist will also make sure you understand the possible risks of teeth whitening. These are lessened when your treatment is guided by a professional and you use a custom-made kit, rather than a product bought from a store.
Another popular cosmetic option is dental veneers, which not only whiten teeth, but can also change their shape, size or alignment, or close minor gaps. Veneers are a thin layer of porcelain or composite resin bonded to the front of teeth to change their appearance. Some dentists are also qualified to provide anti-wrinkle treatments and other cosmetic injections to complete your smile makeover.
10. Visit the dentist
Has it been longer than 6 months since you visited the dentist? More than a year? Regular check-ups and teeth cleaning may seem like a hassle if you're not used to it, but seeing a dentist and hygienist regularly can help you avoid the pain of serious dental problems and the cost of treatments to fix them.
Many oral health problems don't have obvious symptoms until damage has already been done, but your dentist will be able to spot the signs and catch problems early when they examine your mouth on a regular basis. Hygiene appointments are also important for removing plaque that may have built up on your teeth since your last visit and applying fluoride to help protect teeth against further plaque.
Our friendly team at Sydney CBD Dental will make you feel welcome and as comfortable as possible during your visit to our George Street dental clinic. Whether you're visiting us for a routine check-up and clean or a dental treatment, you'll be in safe hands with our caring and experienced professionals.
Call us today on (02) 9232 3900 to schedule your appointment with a Sydney dentist or book online.