With New Year’s resolutions in January and now Lent in full swing, it seems that there’s a focus on giving things up at the start of each year. For some people, this can be a difficult or daunting task to stick to. It’s easy to fall off the wagon or even become resentful about foregoing something we perhaps enjoy, and that’s when resolutions and Lent can get broken.
That’s why it can be helpful to make smaller - but positive - adjustments to our everyday habits instead. Even the smallest changes could have great benefits for your health and wellbeing.
Which of the below oral health habits could you adjust to improve your oral health?
Brushing too hard
Scrubbing hard or vigorously doesn’t equal a better tooth-brushing session – quite the opposite in fact. Aggressive brushing can wear away tooth enamel and cause your gums to recede, as well as becoming sore.
Sound familiar? If so, being mindful of how hard you’re brushing will really benefit your teeth and gums long-term. Make sure you’re use a soft-bristled toothbrush and angle the brush at 45 degrees to the gum line, brushing in small, gentle circular movements.
Flossing before bed
If you’re not a fan of flossing, you’re not alone. Over a third of UK adults (37%) say they never floss1. However, if you’re leaving plaque and particles of food between your teeth every night, it could leave you at risk of developing gum disease and tooth decay.
It takes just a couple of minutes to floss your whole mouth, so taking the time before bed will reap the benefits. The good news is that there are lots of other ways to clean between your teeth if traditional string floss isn’t your bag. Interdental brushes or water/air flossers are highly effective, quick and easy to use, and mentally you don’t really feel like you’re ‘flossing’ so you’re potentially more likely to do it.
Rinsing after brushing
Often a habit developed in childhood, many people rinse their mouth with water after brushing. However, it washes away the protective fluoride found in your toothpaste, limiting the protection against tooth decay.
It’s always best to just spit and don’t rinse. If you want to use mouthwash, it’s better to use this at a different time of the day to when you brush, such as after a meal, for the same reason.
Nibbling on your nails can weaken, crack or even chip tooth enamel over time. If it’s a habit you’re struggling to break, it can be helpful to try and identify what’s triggering you to bite; is it just an unconscious habit or are you doing it during stressful times of the day? It can also be helpful to use a special bitter-tasting clear varnish. Other people treat themselves to regular professional manicures or acrylic nails as they’re less likely to bite when their nails look good and they’ve spent money!
Changing your toothbrush
Dentists recommend you change your toothbrush (or brush head if you’re using an electric toothbrush) every three months. This is to ensure the bristles aren’t worn or splayed and affecting how well you can brush, as well as to reduce build-up of bacteria on your brush.
This is such an easy change to make – just set a reminder on your phone or calendar to prompt you change your brush every three months.
Chocolate and other sugary snacks
Chocolate is probably the first thing that springs to mind when someone considers giving up something for Lent. In the UK, the average person gobbles a staggering 7.5kg of chocolate each year (equivalent to 167 small bars), making us the third biggest consumers of chocolate in the world2.
With figures like this in mind, going ‘cold turkey’ and completely abstaining from chocolate or other sweet treats for an extended period is going to be a challenge for many.
If you fall into this camp and you can’t kick your confectionary habit, it can be helpful to adjust the way that you eat chocolate to help protect your teeth from decay. Rather than having chocolate (or other sugary things) as regular snacks throughout the day, occasionally enjoy a couple of squares of high quality dark chocolate straight after a meal. You’re less likely to eat a large amount and you’ll reduce the effects of sugar on your teeth. This is because the bacteria that cause tooth decay feed on sugar every time we eat things like chocolate, so limiting how often you expose your teeth to sugar will limit the attacks on your teeth.
 YouGov survey conducted online on behalf of Simplyhealth Professionals. Total sample size was 5,068 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken from 24th January to 2nd February 2017. Figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+)