The beginning of the new year is a time when most of us start to think critically about our health, whether it be starting a new exercise routine, incorporating more vegetables into our diets or just making time to unwind and relieve stress. One health component that is often overlooked, however, is dental health. As you take time to prioritize your health at the start of the New Year, there are plenty of simple things you can do to improve your dental health that also have benefits to your holistic health.

Eat fruits and veggies
This one is a standard resolution for most looking to improve their health as we kick off the New Year, but eating more fruits and vegetables is not only great for your nutritional health, but also for your dental health. Poor nutrition can increase the risk of many oral disorders, including gum disease. The nutrients, especially antioxidants, found in fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts improve your body’s ability to fight bacteria and inflammation, which in turn can protect teeth and gums. Also, crisp fruits and raw vegetables, like apples, carrots and celery, can act almost like natural toothbrushes by cleaning plaque from teeth and freshening breath.

Ditch tobacco
Everyone knows that tobacco use is harmful, but it can affect your dental health in multiple ways. Smoking or using other tobacco products can increase risk for tooth discoloration, cavities, gum recession, gum disease and throat, lung and oral cancer. Smokers are about twice as likely to lose their teeth as non-smokers are, but fortunately, the risk of tooth loss decreases after quitting.

Enjoy alcohol in moderation
Similar to tobacco, most people are aware that excessive alcohol consumption can be detrimental to your overall health, but many are less aware of the oral health risks. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, heavy drinkers usually have increased gum recession, and smokers who regularly consume alcohol are less likely to brush their teeth regularly.

Brush and floss regularly
The best way to protect your teeth from decay and gum disease, caused by plaque, is to brush at least twice daily and floss at least once per day. Plaque is a sticky, colorless, invisible film of harmful bacteria that builds up on your teeth every day, and removing it regularly is key for good oral health. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, only flossing can remove plaque from between teeth and below the gumline, where decay and gum disease usually originates.

Schedule a visit to the dentist
If you haven’t seen your dentist in a while, the New Year is the perfect opportunity to schedule a check-up. You should visit your dentist at least twice annually to prevent any dental health problems before they start to become more complicated or cause discomfort.

Adopting these simple oral health game-changers can make a world of difference for your smile and for your overall well-being!