8 Resolutions Dentists Want You to Make This Year (Beyond Brushing and Flossing)

There's so much more to a healthy smile.
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If there's one thing you already know about taking care of your oral health, it's to brush and floss every day. (Whether or not you're actually sticking to that.) But there are other important must-make mouth moves to have on your radar this year.


After all, dental health isn't just about keeping up appearances — it's part of the foundation of healthy aging and longevity, according to August 2021 research in The Lancet Healthy Longevity.

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"People who keep their teeth for a lifetime generally live happier, healthier and longer lives," Dayna Cassandra, DDS, a dentist in Paramus, New Jersey, tells LIVESTRONG.com.

So, it's a worthy goal to show your smile (and gums) some love this year. Here's what dental experts want you to do.

1. Cut Down on Acidic Foods and Drinks

Candy isn't the only culprit that can jeopardize your healthy grin.

"We tend to think a lot about sugar, but the acidity of certain foods we eat can yield a significant problem for the enamel and the health of the teeth," Jason Auerbach, DDS, founder of Riverside Oral Surgery in River Edge, New Jersey, tells LIVESTRONG.com.


Acidic foods are generally those that fit into three categories, says the American Dental Association (ADA): citrus and citrus-flavored, carbonated and sour. Soda, both regular and diet, is the major culprit.

Certainly, reduce your intake of soda — less wear-and-tear on your teeth is just one of many benefits you'll reap.

If you're eating healthy acidic foods like oranges or tomatoes, the ADA recommends eating these as part of a meal to reduce acid exposure to your teeth, rinsing your mouth with water afterward and waiting an hour before brushing.


2. Get a Water Flosser

Hate flossing? Struggle to get into the habit? One way around that is to use a water flosser — and keep it in your shower, Dmitry Dolgov, DMD, of The Dentist Lounge in Santa Monica, California, tells LIVESTRONG.com.

"These handy devices shoot pressurized water deep into gums, effectively rinsing away food particles and bacteria that can be tough to reach with regular brushing and flossing," he explains.



Dr. Dolgov's patients also "swear by its effectiveness," he says.

One tip is to mix some mouthwash with the water in your water flosser for extra cleaning, he adds.

Dentists often recommend the Waterpik ION Cordless Water Flosser, which is cordless, compact and comes with 10 pressure settings.


3. Wear Your Night Guard

So many people clench and grind their teeth in their sleep but receive no treatment for it. Stress, alcohol and caffeine consumption, smoking and certain medications are some of the lifestyle factors that can make you more likely to develop bruxism, the medical name for the condition, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

"I see so many cracked teeth in my practice that end up needing root canals or have to be extracted. We don't realize how much we clench during sleep," Alexa Martin, DMD, board-certified endodontist in Beverly Hills, tells LIVESTRONG.com.


She encourages clenchers to get — and wear — a night guard to protect their teeth while they sleep.

If you have worn teeth, tooth pain or sensitivity, or you often wake up with a sore jaw, headache or facial pain, talk to your dentist.


The best night guards can be customized to your teeth and are made of durable, high-quality materials that won't wear down quickly.

4. Stop Ignoring Your Bleeding Gums

If your gums bleed, that's not normal, Michael Kosdon, DDS, a cosmetic dentist in New York City, tells LIVESTRONG.com. "This is a huge red flag," he says.


Gums should be pink and not red or inflamed. Bleeding after flossing or brushing is a sign of gingivitis, which happens if you're not brushing properly and miss the plaque around your gums. Untreated, this can progress to periodontal disease, which is a loss of bone that can lead to tooth loss.


If you have bleeding gums, don't sit on it — make an appointment with your dentist to identify the cause and come up with a plan. That might include a tutorial on the right way to brush your teeth — according to the ADA, that includes moving your toothbrush back and forth at a 45-degree angle to your gums in short strokes — or purchasing an electric toothbrush.

5. Tell Your Dentist if You Have Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where you experience pauses in breathing throughout the night, per the Mayo Clinic. Snoring is one indicator, as is waking up with a dry mouth.

"People who breathe through their mouth, rather than their nose, will have a much greater chance of developing dental disease, increased inflammation of the soft tissue and dry mouth leading to periodontitis and cavities," Dr. Cassandra says.

Saliva plays an important role in oral health by helping to wash away bacteria and re-harden your enamel, which is why dry mouth can be dangerous.

Although sleep apnea may sound like ‌only‌ a medical issue, tell your dentist if you have apnea or deal with dry mouth so they can help you protect your teeth.

6. Snack Less

For some people, snacks are an important part of their day, and the right snack can add extra nutrition and keep hunger at bay.

However, constant grazing is bad for your dental health. As Dr. Dolgov explains, when you eat or drink something, the pH levels in your mouth drop and become more acidic in order to begin the process of digestion.

"After you finish eating, it can take 30 minutes to an hour for your mouth's pH level to return to its natural levels. That's why constant snacking or sipping on acidic drinks over extended periods puts you at a higher risk for oral issues like cavities," he says.


7. Ask How Often You Should Come In

You might be surprised to know there isn't actually a standard recommendation to visit your dentist twice per year. In fact, the ADA advises tailoring the interval of dental visits based on your risk of disease.

"Most adults are best with three to four times a year professional hygiene routine [cleanings] to help manage the bacteria that leads to dental disease," Dr. Cassandra says.

Bottom line: Ask your dentist what they recommend for you.

8. Find a Dentist You Like

Already love your dentist? Then skip this resolution. But if you dread going to the dentist because yours has a poor bedside manner, makes you feel guilty about your habits or is not gentle with your mouth, then it's time to go dentist shopping.

"There are a million dentists out there on every corner. I always say, if you don't absolutely love your dentist, find another one," Dr. Martin says. "People already dread going to the dentist, so don't add the fact that you hate your dentist as another reason to avoid it."




Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.

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