Healthy Resolutions for the New Year

Made a New Year’s Resolution?  Was it to quit smoking?  Drink less?  Eat healthier?  Exercise more?  These are all great resolutions for your general health and well-being, but they can also really help with your oral health as well!  Smoking, abusing alcohol, an unhealthy diet and inactive lifestyle all have negative effects on your oral hygiene.  We understand that working out in order to obtain a healthier mouth probably isn’t your top reason for hitting the gym, but it can be an added bonus!

Quitting tobacco?  Here are a few added reasons why kicking the habit is good for you.  Cigarettes, chewing tobacco, cigars, etc can cause the following:

Did you know that 50% of smoking adults have periodontal disease?  So one out of two smokers has periodontal disease, a disease that can cause you to lose your teeth and that can affect your overall heart, brain, and organ health.  And here you thought you were just doing your lungs a favor!

Cutting back on the booze?   Studies have shown that if you are a drinker you are six times more likely to have oral cancer than non-drinkers.  Alcohol also is a drying agent, it reduces saliva and creates a more acidic environment in your mouth which can soften enamel.  Add the softened enamel with the high sugar content that comes with alcohol and that leads to tooth decay, damage to enamel, gum deterioration and tooth loss. By cutting back on alcohol you are taking steps to avoiding cavities, getting Root Canals, tissue grafts and possibly losing teeth!

Now for those of you looking to get in shape for the new year, we all know how getting stronger, leaner, and more cardiovascular endurance can have an effect on your quality and longevity of life.  But did you know that individuals who exercised moderately less than three times a week (over a 10 year period) had a 33% reduced risk of periodontitis than individuals who didn’t?  And if you’re really working out,  vigorously at least three times a week (over a 10 year period) you can reduce your chances of getting periodontitis by 50% (as shown in a Natural Health and Nutrition Exam Survey)!  The only caveat is that you have to also be a non-smoker.  Just make sure that if you are starting an exercise routine that you are not drinking all the sugary sports drinks or energy drinks.  The sugar content in the drinks, along with constant sipping over extended periods of time can create a great environment for bacteria.  The best way to keep your teeth and gums healthy (and your body) is just to drink water in order to stay hydrated.

For the individuals who have vowed off sweets and are adding veggies to every meal… or at least are making an effort to revamp their diets and try to eat healthier and cleaner, your efforts will not go unnoticed by your mouth either!  A good diet decreases inflammation in the body, which includes your mouth.  Gum disease is believed to progress faster and become more severe in people with poor nutrition.  Lack of nutrients and increase in inflammatory responses in your mouth can lead to increase in periodontal disease.  Healthy foods like nuts, chicken and cheeses provide calcium and phosphorus which are needed to re-mineralize teeth.  Crunchy and firm fruits and veggies are high in water content, which dilutes the sugars they contain and stimulate flow of saliva.  Saliva (as noted earlier under quitting alcohol) helps to prevent against decay by creating a less acidic environment in your mouth).  Cutting back on the sugary foods (or quitting altogether) means that you are not giving bacteria a good living environment.  Foods like cakes, cookies, breads, desserts, candy, chips, etc stick to your teeth and create a haven for bacteria which eat away at your enamel and cause decay.

So whichever health habit you are vowing to do better with in this new year, know that your teeth (along with your body) are thanking you (and so is your dentist)!

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