It’s understandably common to take stock of our lives at this time of year. As one year draws to a close and a new year looms large in our consciousness, it’s a natural impulse. We examine what is working and good in our lives. We celebrate and give thanks for those things. We look at what’s flawed in our lives, what’s not working and resolve to do better in the coming year, to fix what’s broken. Sometimes, though, in our zeal to fix our flaws—real or perceived—we overlook or undervalue what is right and good in our lives. Although it may be a perfectly human tendency to focus on our flaws, it’s much healthier to take a balanced approach. If your oral health is a personal pain point you’d like to address in the coming year, consider these three tips to help make the journey to better oral health more enjoyable (increasing the odds you’ll follow through) and to maximize your success along the way.
Tip #1: Don’t Try to Go it Alone
Being accountable to someone is key to changing behaviors for the better. In the area of health behaviors, a study looking at how couples motivate each other to improve their health, researchers found that when one partner improved a healthy habit, the other was more likely to improve their health in that area as well. A widely cited study by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) found that being accountable to another person raised success in improving behavior by 65%. If a regular accountability appointment was set up, success rose to 95%. So, if you want to improve your oral health, don’t avoid dental appointments. Instead, make regular dental appointments and keep them. Working with your dental care team can help you achieve your goals for better health.
Tip #2: Be Willing to Accept Meaningful Help While Forgoing Bad Advice That Will Only Lead to Setbacks
a) There’s a woman on YouTube who, in seeking to convert others to a restrictive diet that involves radical lifestyle changes that says all toothpaste is poison and that eating an apple is the only toothbrushing you’ll ever need. The lifestyle changes she is advocating for are contradicted by every reputable or scientific effort to evaluate the safety of those changes. b) Your dentist recommends you try a new type of toothpaste that has several research-backed improvements over your current toothpaste. The new toothpaste has a different taste and texture but if you to give it a chance, it could make a considerable improvement in your oral health. The latter is an effort at meaningful help; the former is likely to cause you setbacks.
In a world where we ask Google for the answer to almost every question, it’s easy to lose track of the fact that not all answers are equally worthy of our attention. Particularly when we’re looking for answers to important questions about our health, we need to evaluate and judge the answers we receive. Your dental care team can be a huge asset in your quest to find the answers to improving your oral health. However, if you are asking for a partner in oral health and active caries prevention and your dental care team is stuck in the old drill-and-fill-exclusively model without looking at the bigger picture for oral health, it’s okay to find a new dental care team that shares your goals and can bring expertise to help that happen.
Tip #3: Consider the Big Picture; Don’t Get Bogged Down in Smaller Setbacks
It’s too easy to see a small setback and feel like our changes aren’t working and aren’t worth the effort. It’s a mistake to let the frustrations of a small moment undo the good progress you’ve been building. If you develop a new cavity while trying to prevent them, don’t quit. Reframe the moment, not as a failure of your efforts, but as an opening to a better conversation with your dentist about your caries risk and how that risk level translates into a specific, personalized management plan. Healing is a process, caries are a disease, and sometimes things may not go smoothly. That’s okay as long as you stick to an effective, long term treatment plan that will help you achieve good oral health for a lifetime.
As you work at your goal to improve your oral health, remember that balance in the oral environment is not just a metaphor; it’s a concrete measure you can improve. Oral pH is a major factor that helps keep teeth caries-free or contributes to caries development if it becomes unhealthy. Balance in the wide sense and oral pH balance are excellent keys to improving your oral health this year and every year in the future.