The New Year is here, and for many people, that means it’s time to set health-related goals for the coming year. As you’re working on your New Year’s resolution list, consider adding some oral health goals. Whether you wish you could floss more often or take better care of your teeth, the New Year is an opportunity to kick start your oral health. Learning about common dental problems and their treatments can help you set realistic goals and improve your oral health.
Common Dental Problems
When it comes to your oral health, knowledge is power. Learning about the common dental problems you might face could help you take steps to protect your dental health. On the other hand, having a lower level of oral health knowledge may be a risk factor for developing cavities and gum disease, according to research published in the Journal of the American Dental Association.
Some common dental problems to be aware of include:
- Cavities. A cavity is a hole that forms in your tooth. It occurs when the sticky film on your teeth, called plaque, produces acids that eat away at the tooth enamel. Daily toothbrushing can help you remove plaque. About 90% of people 20 and older have had at least one cavity.
- Gum disease. When plaque isn’t removed, it can harden into tartar. Tartar that collects above your gum line can irritate the tissue, resulting in gum disease.
- Sensitive teeth. Sensitive teeth may be painful when you eat or drink something hot, cold, acidic, or sticky. This pain happens when tooth enamel wears away, exposing the sensitive layer of dentin underneath. Cavities, gum disease, and worn-out fillings are a few possible causes of tooth sensitivity.
- Toothaches. A toothache is pain you feel in or around your tooth. Cavities are the main cause of toothaches. Many other dental problems may cause a toothache, such as an injury to the tooth or an infection in the gums.
- Chipped teeth. When you chip a tooth, a piece of your tooth enamel breaks off. This could happen if you clench your teeth or chew on hard objects, such as ice. Chipped teeth are common: they make up the majority of dental injuries.
If your dentist diagnoses you with a dental problem, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You can also do your own research with reputable sources, such as the Smile Generation blog. Learning about the causes of the problem, and its possible treatments could help you take better care of your teeth in the future.
Dentists may offer multiple treatment options for common dental problems. Learning about the different treatment options available to you can help you make an informed decision about how to proceed.
Some of the common treatments your dentist may recommend include:
- Fillings. Fillings are used to repair cavities. Your dentist may offer several different materials, such as amalgam (silver-colored) fillings or composite resin (tooth-colored) fillings.
- Crowns. A crown is a tooth-shaped cap that’s cemented on top of a damaged tooth to restore its look or function. A crown may be made of several materials, including gold or tooth-colored porcelain. Your dentist may recommend a crown if you have a cracked tooth or a large cavity.
- Root canals. Root canal treatment may be used to save an infected tooth. The procedure involves removing the pulp inside your tooth and then sealing the inside of the tooth with filling material. After a root canal, your dentist may recommend a crown to protect the tooth.
- Tooth extractions. Sometimes, it may be necessary to have a tooth extracted (pulled). Your dentist might recommend pulling a tooth if it’s too damaged or decayed to fix with other treatments.
- Dental cleanings. Routine dental cleanings can help you prevent oral health problems. A thorough cleaning beneath the gum line, known as scaling and root planing, may be necessary to treat gum disease.
- Dental bonding. Dental bonding is a cosmetic procedure that involves attaching tooth-colored materials directly to your tooth. It may be used to fix chipped or broken teeth.
When you know your treatment options, you can work with your dentist to achieve your oral health goals. You can also feel empowered to seek a second opinion if you aren’t sure about your treatment plan or want more information about your options.
Taking good care of your teeth and gums does more than help you achieve whiter teeth and fresher breath. Your oral health may have an impact on the rest of your body and vice versa. The mouth-body connection is so strong that Mayo Clinic has called oral health “a window to your overall health.”
Thanks to this connection, your dentist may help you learn more about your overall health, as well as your oral health. Changes in the mouth may be among the first signs of some health conditions, which could make early diagnosis possible. A dental checkup could help reveal:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Acid reflux may wear away at the tooth enamel, and the resulting tooth erosion may be noticeable to your dentist.
- Vitamin deficiencies. Oral health clues may help your dentist identify vitamin deficiencies. For instance, gum disease or mouth ulcers could be signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Crohn’s disease. Oral changes may be the earliest symptom of Crohn’s disease. Changes your dentist may notice include oral ulcers or swollen oral tissues.
On top of that, your Dentist can diagnose Periodontal Disease which can lead to or increase your risk of
- Diabetes. Diabetes may cause poor gum health. If you have symptoms of gum disease, such as bleeding or swollen gums, your dentist may encourage you to see your doctor.
- Heart Disease that could lead to a heart attack
- Dementia such as Alzheimer's Disease
- Complications in Pregnancy such as Pre-term Low Weight Birth
Inflammation is the root cause of all major diseases. A good oral hygiene routine and regular dental visits may help you protect your oral health — and your overall health. Click here to learn more about the 32 reasons you need to know more about the Mouth-Body Connection.
New Year, New Goals
The New Year is an opportunity to start fresh and set goals to improve your wellbeing. Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions are health-related. Among Americans who made New Year’s resolutions in 2021, 50% resolved to get more exercise, while 48% vowed to lose weight. Nearly as many (39%) intended to eat a healthier diet.
When goal setting for the New Year, consider your dentist’s feedback about your oral health and overall health. Knowledge is power, and using the mouth-body connection could help you set realistic goals to improve your health. For example, if your dentist helped you identify that you have Pre-Diabetic Symptoms, you might use that knowledge to resolve to eat healthier in the New Year. Turning these knowledge-based goals into SMART goals could help you stick to your resolutions and achieve your goals.
SMART goals are:
- Specific. Be clear about what you want to accomplish and why. The more detail, the better.
- Measurable. Assign a trackable unit to your goal, such as the number of times you take a specific action.
- Action-Oriented. Describe the actions you’ll take to work toward your goal.
- Realistic. Setting realistic goals means your goals are targets you’re both willing and able to achieve.
- Timed. Identify when you’ll start and when you want to achieve your goal.
You can use the SMART goal system to create good New Year's resolutions based on your dentist’s feedback about your overall health. When it comes to these health goals, some SMART goals examples include:
- My dentist helped me identify a vitamin B12 deficiency. Starting January 1, I’ll eat foods that contain vitamin B12 at every meal, and I’ll follow up with my doctor in three months to check my progress.
- My dentist helped me get an early diabetes diagnosis, and my doctor said exercising could help me control it. Starting January 1, I’ll walk around my neighborhood for 30 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings.
New Year, New Benefits
The New Year isn’t just an opportunity to set goals and work toward bettering your health. If you have dental insurance, the New Year may be an opportunity to take advantage of new benefits.
Dental insurance plans typically have an “annual maximum.” That’s the maximum amount your plan will cover during the year. If you’ve already hit your annual maximum, your limit may reset on January 1. Take advantage of your new benefits by making an appointment with your dentist.
If you don’t have a dental plan, getting new benefits may be the best New Year resolution. The Smile Generation Dental Plan is a discount dental plan that may help members save money on the dental treatment they need. It’s accepted in all Smile Generation-trusted offices in 25 states.
Find a Dentist to Kickstart Your Health
Whether you want to floss more, get a whiter smile, or take better care of your teeth, your dentist can help you work toward your oral health goals for the New Year. To find a dentist near you to kickstart your health, check out our Find a Dentist tool. You can browse Smile Generation-trusted dentists in your area and book your first appointment online.