With the start of each new year comes a revitalization, and a new set of hopes, aspirations and goals for ourselves and our families. Many of these goals involve our health, be it maintaining or improving it. However, unlike those costly gym memberships and weight loss programs, I would like to propose a list of dental new year’s resolutions designed to do the exact opposite – to help reduce dental expenses and save money. With that lofty goal in mind, here are my suggested dental resolutions:
1. Floss every day. At the risk of sounding both predictable and boring, there really is no easier and cheaper form of prevention than flossing once a day. With a little practice, it will only take two minutes a day, and will prevent costly and time-consuming treatment. You can also double the lifespan of existing dental work by flossing daily. Parents with young children should also be flossing their children’s’ teeth, starting as young as age three.
2. Have your teeth cleaned and checked regularly by a dentist or hygienist. If you compare the cost of twice a year cleaning with having a couple of fillings or a crown done, the preventive cleaning visits are far more economical.
3. Understand your dental benefits. Take a few minutes to read your dental insurance coverage details. If the wording is technical or confusing, ask your dental office to help with making the best use of your coverage.
4. Wear a mouth guard for contact sports. Certain sports are high risk for dental injuries, including hockey, football, basketball, rugby and martial arts. A well-fitted mouth guard can prevent thousands of dollars in complex restoration following dental trauma.
5. If you grind your teeth, consider having a dental appliance made to protect your teeth. Dental night guards can protect your teeth and jaws from the destructive effects of clenching and grinding. Talk to your dentist to determine if you are a good candidate for wearing a dental appliance.
6. Never use your teeth for activities other than eating. You might be amazed to hear how often teeth and dental work are damaged by activities such as opening packaging, tearing thread, and biting pens or fingernails.
7. Reduce your intake of ‘sticky’ sugars. Sticky sugars include snacks such as gum, toffee, caramel and gummy candies. These sticky sweets can adhere to teeth up to 20 times longer than non-sticky sweets such as chocolate.
8. Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. Fruits that are consumed with the skin on (such as apples, grapes and peaches) have a natural ‘cleansing’ action on the teeth, wiping plaque off of the teeth naturally and without being abrasive. Raw vegetables such as carrots, celery and broccoli have the same effect.
9. If you do require dental treatment, ask your dentist about options or alternatives. Remember that the best health care consumer is an informed one. Take the time to ask your dentist questions and educate yourself about your options.
Good luck in adhering to your resolutions, and I wish you a safe, happy and healthy new year.
Dr. Allan Katchky is a dentist who practises in the East End.