2 New Year's Resolutions Your Dentist Hopes You'll Make for 2019
I always enjoy turning the calendar to a new year. There’s something about leaving the past year behind and moving into a new year that gives me excitement and optimism. Whether or not you’re a New Year’s resolution fanatic, I’d venture a guess that most of us approach a new year with some thoughts of how we can make the year ahead even better than the year we’re exiting.
I’m also very realistic about the fact that the overwhelming majority of New Year’s resolutions fall flat. How many of us have a gym membership card languishing in our wallet from New Year’s Day five years ago? With that in mind, here are two simple changes for the upcoming year that will have a profound impact on your health and happiness.
1: Put good stuff in
The most important conversation I can have with my patients to improve their oral health is not about what toothbrush is best, whether I recommend fluoride or if whitening toothpastes actually make teeth whiter. In my opinion, the most beneficial change you can make for your health is to evaluate and improve your diet. A high-quality diet automatically leads to fewer cavities, a healthier mouth and a healthier body. I won’t get into what diet trend I think is best. Far more intelligent and knowledgeable people than me have debated high-fat, low-carb/low-fat/paleo/vegan/plant-based diet trends for years. To keep it simple, here are my suggestions for the new year:
Eat real food (quality meats and proteins, whole fruits and vegetables, nuts, and some starches), not heavily processed or refined food products
Eliminate (or drastically reduce) sugar
A common suggestion to help you eat real food is to limit your grocery shopping to the outside perimeter of the store, where you’ll find fruits and vegetables and fresh (not processed) meats. In the aisles are where you can run into lower-quality foods that can harm your oral and whole-body health. If you’re not sure where to get started, consider one of the many up-and-coming meal subscription services like Hello Fresh or Green Chef.
When it comes to sugar, we all can identify ways to cut back. Start out by actually noting how many sugar-sweetened drinks, snack foods and candies you consume in a day. Set a goal to get that number to zero (or at least cut in half). Substitute water or a non-sweetened drink for your daily Mountain Dew habit. Set small goals you can achieve over time, and notice how your body stops craving those little sugar hits. It may be a challenge at first, but the payoff is well worth it.
2: Get the bad stuff out
My wife and I just finished a post-Christmas purge of our home. Getting rid of unused clothes and clutter was a wonderful release and a great way to make room for the good things we’re bringing into the house after the Christmas holiday. In the same way, if your New Year’s plans involve putting good stuff into your body, it’s best to address the bad stuff that may be harming your health.
Beat the bad bugs
Just like your gut, your mouth is packed full of bacteria. Some of these bugs help maintain a healthy environment in the mouth, while others are responsible for the dental problems we’re all familiar with: cavities, gingivitis, abscesses, etc. If you’ve had a new cavity in the past two years, if you notice bleeding gums or “pink in the sink” when you brush or floss, there’s a good chance that the bad bacteria are crowding out the good bugs in your mouth.
In our practice, we’ve begun a simple screening protocol to identify the types of bacteria that predominate in a patient’s mouth. It takes about one minute to analyze a sample of dental plaque from the mouth and tell if helpful or harmful bacteria are in control. Once we determine the major players, we can provide treatment recommendations to restore the balance of good and bad bacteria in the mouth. Cari-Free and OraTec are two companies that have developed simple and effective products for targeting the bad bugs in the mouth. We recommend their products frequently.
Just Get Started
As you enter 2019, make your health a focus! We would love the chance to show you our approach to dental care. If you’re looking to start the New Year on a healthy foot, give us a call to schedule a new patient visit! We’ll look forward to partnering with you to help you take control of your health. Happy New Year!