How to Make 2017 a Happy and Healthy Year

by MikeMeehan 12/29/2016 11:15 AM

Ask yourself this question: How can you make 2017 the best year it can be? Yes, the following statistics from this Forbes article might be enough to push us away: Close to half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. Only about eight percent stick with them. Even so, a New Year’s resolution can be worthwhile. It can be an opportunity for you to evaluate yourself. What did you do in the previous year you wish you had done differently? New Year’s resolutions require you to upend some ingrained habits. They can be difficult. But you can come up with a resolution that sticks. Here’s how: How to Make a Resolution that Sticks 1) Watch out for the New Year’s resolution spectrum. Picture a New Year’s resolution as resting on a pair of scales. You want equal weight — for the scales to balance with each other and not tilt one direction. With New Year’s resolutions, the scales can get tipped if the resolution is either: a. Too big. These resolutions deal with absolutes and don’t allow any leeway for the unexpected. This year, you might come down with the flu and have to take a week off from your workout routine. Does your resolution allow grace for those missed days? While it’s good to be ambitious, make sure your ambition is tied to your effort or performance and not to an unrealistic end result. b. Too vague. This is the opposite end of the too-big spectrum. Your resolution might have plenty of flexibility, but it’s just as doomed if you don’t incorporate concrete results. “I’m going to eat healthy and work out” sounds good, but it’s not enough to visualize a routine. 2) Choose something that aligns with your values. If you aren’t resolving to do something you’re passionate about, you’re probably setting yourself up for disappointment. At some point during the year, your motivation will be tested. For example, when the weather registers as six degrees with a negative-15-degree wind chill, are you still going to want to trek to the gym? I’m willing to guess that answer for you: No. The more you can tie your resolution to your core values, the more it will influence your habits. An easy way to come up with a resolution that aligns with your core values is this: Imagine your life as a story. Right now, you’re living out a chapter of that story. Now, imagine where you want the story to go. How do you want the story to end? What’s preventing you from getting there? By thinking in these terms, you can begin to identify areas to work on. If those suggestions aren’t enough to come up with a New Year’s resolution, you might want to consider one of these six goals. Six New Year’s Resolutions You Might Want to Consider 1) De-stress. Stress has a lot of negative effects on the body, including to the teeth. To alleviate stress, you can develop a habit of these six simple steps. 2) Eat healthier. Whether it be a main dish, a favorite winter drink or a healthy dessert, eating well can give you more energy, reduce your risk for disease and just make you feel better in general. 3) Learn an instrument. Music is good for the soul. And you can also take certain steps to make sure it’s good on the teeth, too! 4) Read more. For this one, you might want to choose a concrete number, like 24 books throughout the year. Or better yet, six books every three months: It’s the same goal, but you can feel like you’re making progress. As you begin flipping pages, make sure to follow the 20-20-20 rule. 5) Brush and floss. Brushing twice a day and flossing daily can prevent all sorts of issues in your mouth. 6) Show yourself some love. Too many people place too much worth on who they aren’t, while undervaluing who they are. For 2017, you can commit to wellness, brighten your smile and feed your soul. We wish you a happy and healthy 2017! These are a few of our New Year’s resolutions. Now it’s your turn: What are yours?  

A Breath of Fresh Air: What I Learned from National 12-Hour Fresh Breath Day

by MikeMeehan 12/15/2016 3:11 PM

You might have participated with us earlier this week as we celebrated National 12-Hour Fresh Breath Day. Our useful videos are still available on Facebook. The purpose of National 12-Hour Fresh Breath Day is to appreciate oral hygiene and its importance by keeping breath fresh for 12 hours. Below is a journal of my participation, documenting the day’s unexpected challenges, breath-freshening tactics and tips for determining if your breath is actually fresh. 8 a.m. After a shower, I brushed and flossed my teeth. I followed techniques we wrote about here. Once I’d finished, I checked my mouth. My tongue had a white film on it, which indicated bad breath. I scrubbed my tongue with a toothbrush, as one of the leading culprits of bad breath is gunk collecting on the tongue. After I finished brushing, though, the white film remained. I needed to come up with a more effective trick. I had some mints handy, so I popped a couple of those and headed out the door. 9:30 a.m. At the office, I tried a tongue cleaner, which I’d bought at a grocery store on the way to work. The tongue cleaner was simple: a ring attached to a handle, kind of like a bubble blower. I stuck my tongue out, pressed the cleaner against the back of it and pulled forward. As I did, a yellowish saliva formed in the fold of my tongue. The yellowish color was from a buildup of bacteria that had accrued overnight. The saliva became trapped in the ring, which made the cleaner look even more like a bubble blower: one that had been dipped in bubble solution. As a man who brushes regularly, I was shocked by how gross my tongue was. 10 a.m. I poured a cup of coffee. As an unapologetic not-morning person, I need the caffeine. Unfortunately, strong-smelling drinks like coffee can lead to bad breath. I’d have to act soon. But first, I was going to enjoy me some coffee. 11:30 am Coffee finished, I tested my breath. At first, I used the age-old method of covering my mouth and nose with my hand and breathing into my palm. I didn’t smell anything, though. Having just had coffee, I didn’t trust those results. I tried the lick test. The lick test is useful, because you can be pretty discreet about it. Simply lick your wrist, wait for it to dry, then smell it. My breath didn’t smell nearly as bad as I anticipated. I considered more mints. But the mints contained sugar, and sugar can be a breeding ground for bacteria. I had a stick of sugar-free xylitol gum instead. 12 p.m. Of all the days to meet a friend for lunch — and at an Indian buffet, no less! I loaded up on butter chicken, chicken curry, aloo palak, methi paneer and garlic naan. Strongly flavored foods with lots of spices may taste delicious, but they can also lead to bad breath. Luckily, the restaurant offered pan mukhwas by the front door. Pan mukhwas is an assortment of fennel seeds and other Indian seeds. I asked the waiter more about it. He explained that not only do the seeds freshen breath, they can soothe an overfull stomach. I tried a handful. They tasted like black licorice. 1:30 p.m. Back in the office, I asked some friends if they’d be willing to check my breath. They politely declined. So I tried the spoon test. Scraping my tongue with a spoon, I admired the nice saliva sample I left on the plastic rim. Then I sniffed the spoon. I didn’t smell anything. Perhaps the pan mukhwas had worked. 3:30 p.m. At this point, it was time for a mid-afternoon snack. I prepared a plate of celery. Celery can ward off bad breath, because it’s fiber-rich and increases saliva production. Some people even call it nature’s dental floss! Unfortunately for my coworkers, there is no quiet way to munch celery. 4 p.m. I tested for bad breath again. At first, I tried the cheek-pulling method. I grabbed my cheeks and pulled them away, exposing my teeth. Then I pressed the pulled-back skin against my teeth. I tried this a few times and couldn’t smell anything. I wasn’t sure if it meant I had fresh breath or if I had a terrible sense of smell or if I wasn’t doing it right or if the technique just doesn’t work. I opted instead to place a cotton ball on the back of my tongue. But it stuck when I tried to pull it away, and I had to fish cotton from my mouth. The results, however, were fairly accurate. When I sniffed the cotton ball, it smelled like a combination of fennel seeds and celery. My breath was pretty fresh! 5 p.m. As I finished another mug-full of water, I marked on a piece of paper how much I’d consumed.  One cause of bad breath is dry mouth, so throughout the day, I’d drunk lots of water. By 5 p.m., I’d charted just shy of a gallon: about 115 ounces. 8 p.m. I finally arrived at 12 hours. Though it may have been subjective as to whether I’d maintained fresh breath all day, I hadn’t received any complaints, so I was willing to chalk that up as a win! Truth was, National 12-Hour Fresh Breath Day seemed more about the absence of bad breath than having breath that smelt pleasant. In either case, I felt like I was treating my smile healthily, which boosted my confidence. Of course, another culprit of bad breath is periodontal disease. I’d have to make sure to schedule a regular visit to my dentist!

The Effects of Stress on Your Smile

by MikeMeehan 12/7/2016 3:04 PM

It seems like stress is everywhere, especially as 2016 winds down. For many people, the holiday season promises higher levels of stress — shopping, decorating, baking, cleaning, entertaining…the list goes on. And this doesn’t even cover day-to-day stresses we may encounter at work and/or at home. Stress has a lot of negative effects on the body, from high blood pressure and cholesterol to heart disease. It’s also tough on the teeth. The Role of Stress on the Body To understand the role of stress on teeth, let’s start with the role of stress on the body. Stress is defined as “A state of mental or emotional strain resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.” This strain comes about when the brain perceives a threat. As the brain processes the threat, it decides one of three reactions: fight, flee or freeze. Once that decision is made, the pituitary gland releases adrenaline and cortisol into the system. Depending on the circumstances, the hormones might get released even if the body isn’t experiencing a real threat. Or the hormone might release continually. When this happens, it can have negative effects on the body, especially on teeth. Five Ways Stress Is Bad for Oral Health 1.     Stress increases risk for gum disease. Stress hurts the body’s ability to deal with infections, including gum disease. 2.    Stress makes us more susceptible to dental cavities. When we have more cortisol in our systems, our bodies produce acid. Our overall pH-balance influences our health. The scale ranges from 1 to 14, with 1 being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline. Ideally, we want a concentration between 7.35 and 7.45. Too much stress, however, leans us toward acidic. To compensate, the body draws minerals out of bones and teeth. Not only does stress automatically make our bodies more acidic, we tend to cope by increasing our use of products like caffeine, sugar and alcohol, which can affect our mood and sleep. Plus, sugar and alcohol can also contribute to tooth decay, and several caffeinated products can stain teeth. 3.    Stress can lead to bruxism. Higher levels of stress may cause you to clench or grind your teeth at night. This clenching or grinding is called bruxism. Symptoms could include waking up with a headache on a regular basis and experiencing tooth sensitivity, due to enamel rubbing off. If you are suffering from bruxism, you might want to wear a mouth guard when you go to sleep. 4.    Stress can cause temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJD). The temporomandibular joint joins the jaw to the skull. TMJD also represents the muscles used to move the jaw. If you feel jaw joint pain or you catch your jaw popping or clicking, TMJD may be the cause. Depending on how severe it is, you might need to consult your dentist to relax your jaw muscles. If it’s not too severe, watch more funny movies, as laughter can relax muscles. 5.    Stress can cause canker sores. These small lesions form on the soft tissues inside your mouth. They are self-treatable, non-contagious and usually go away after two weeks.   Six Easy Steps to Alleviate Stress Nobody would say stress is good, but most people probably don’t realize just how devastating it can be. To alleviate stress, practice these six simple techniques. 1.     Sleep. Your body needs at least seven to nine hours of sleep a night. If you’re under a lot of stress, you may want to consider being more mindful of your bedtime. When the sun sets, put all technology away (computer, smartphone, TV) and focus on rest. 2.    Eat nutritiously. Remember what we said earlier about caffeine, sugar and alcohol — how it can make the body more acidic? A nutritious diet can alkalize your body and give you more energy. 3.    Exercise. Thirty minutes of consistent exercise a day can reduce blood pressure, improve heart health and put you in a better mood. 4.    Meditate. “If you are depressed, you live in the past,” said Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher. “If you are anxious, you live in the future. If you are happy, you live in the present.” Most stress, it appears, comes from living too much in the past or future. By meditating, you can begin to train your mind to focus on the present. 5.    Brush twice a day and floss daily. We’ve written before “You can’t spell overall without oral.” As in, oral health directly affects overall wellness. If stress is threatening your wellness, you can respond by maintaining a consistent brushing and flossing routine. 6.    Visit your dentist every six months. Don’t go through stress alone. By visiting your dentist, you’re more likely to catch some of these negative effects before they become bigger problems. While we’d all prefer to live in a stress-free world, it’s not always possible. By practicing these techniques, you can hopefully alleviate stress and maintain your beautiful smile.

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