A New Year's Resolution That Could Save Your Life

SmileWhat's your New Year's resolution? I just made a new one: In 2012, I'm going to take extra good care of my teeth. I know, it doesn't sound very sexy, as far as annual resolutions go. It's no optimistic lose 20 lbs., make more money and spend more time with my family. (All three of those are also on my list, by the way, though I suspect the last two might be mutually exclusive.) But, in terms of my health, it may be one of the most important things I do this year. In fact, you might want to consider making the same promise to yourself.

Why? Well, it turns out our teeth may tell us more about our overall health than we ever imagined -- and taking care of them could literally save our lives.

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The state of your teeth and gums can indicate a host of problems including cancer, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, inflammation of the organs or blood vessels, vitamin deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as excessive stress, drug addiction and eating disorders, the Wall Street Journal notes. Paying closer attention to your pearly whites and responding promptly to any issues could be as important as anything else you do for your health this year. (Chew that over!)

So here's what each of us should specifically do to make sure our teeth and gums (and the rest of our bodies!) stay nice and healthy this year:

Brush at least twice a day – it's actually best to brush after every meal – using a soft toothbrush and a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste. Make sure you are thorough, working in small, circular motions, for two to three minutes. Give your tongue a gentle brush, as well, to help remove bacteria. Rinse thoroughly with water. And treat yourself to a new toothbrush every three to four months.

Floss daily. Regular flossing gets rid of food and plaque that gets stuck between your teeth, where, if not removed, it can cause problems.

Eat a healthy diet and avoid sugary, starchy foods (candies, cookies and cakes; sugary chewing gum; chips and crackers; dried fruits and raisins) that can erode teeth. 

Visit your dentist at least every six months for thorough cleanings and checkups. Go more frequently if you have tooth pain or swelling or bleeding or pain in your gums. Speak frankly with your dentist about any health problems your teeth and gums may indicate.

Try a fluoride rinse for added protection and to reduce mouth bacteria.

This year, I plan to do all of these thing more carefully than ever. Do you?

 

Image via Kyknoord/Flickr

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