It’s that time of year where everyone plans for how they’re going to improve their lives in the new year. Maybe you wanted to drop those pesky 10lbs, or maybe you’re looking to quit smoking. Maybe your resolution is to start reading more or pick up gardening. Whatever the case may be, we all know the dreadful success rates associated with New Year’s Resolutions.

Good news — if you want to prove to yourself you can stick with a resolution and improve your health at the same time, look no further than your bathroom sink. Making a commitment to your oral health is a simple step you can take to ensure you keep your smile in good shape for 2018 and beyond. Here are five reasons why improving your oral health should be a priority for the new year.

  1. It takes a minimal amount of effort. Brushing and flossing is pretty low on the list of taxing activities you can subject yourself to. While many people rush to the gym on January 1 to sign up for a new membership (or, more likely, return for the first time in nine months to the one they already belong to), they might be neglecting the tools for health that are already in their medicine cabinets. Brushing and flossing twice a day should be an activity that is so a part of your routine that it requires little thought — like putting on your seat belt when you get in the car. What an easy way to say you stuck to a resolution!
  2. A healthy smile means healthy self image. Research published in the Journal of Community Health Nursing survey found that participants with minor or major dental problems reported having low self-esteem. With factors like crooked or yellowing teeth and chronic bad breath, it’s no wonder these folks may feel a little insecure about interacting with others. In addition to maintaining a twice-a-day brushing and flossing routine and twice-a-year dental checkup schedule, you can add mouthwash to your program to rid the mouth of unwanted bacteria and avoid foods or products like cigarettes that cause the teeth to yellow. If you have gum disease, these undesirable side effects can get even worse, which is why it’s important to have your dentist check you for the disease and have it treated properly.
  3. Oral health is tied to overall health. Heart disease, stroke, cancer, dementia, diabetes — sounds like a laundry list of scary illnesses you’d prefer to steer clear of, right? Did you also know that gum disease has links to all of these and more? Research shows an increased risk for what many of us consider more “serious” diseases in those who have advanced gum disease. What does it mean? More research is needed to how these diseases are linked, but improving your oral health certainly won’t hurt and might even help your chances of keeping your total health in great condition.
  4. Treating your gum disease will benefit the ones you love. Were you aware that gum disease is contagious? That’s right — that shared kiss or bite of food just might put your loved ones’ at risk for getting the disease. That’s why it’s so important to know if you already have gum disease — 80% of U.S. adults have some form — have it treated successfully. Aside from not spreading the disease, your friends and family will probably thank you for not subjecting them to chronic bad breath! Read more about signs of gum disease.
  5. Newer methods make gum disease treatment easier and less painful. For years, dentists have struggled with getting patients to accept gum disease treatment either because patients were unaware of the problem or were too scared to undergo traditional treatment methods, which involve painful cutting and sewing of the gums. Now, thanks to the adoption of Gum Disease Awareness Month (February) in all 50 U.S. states and several territories, and continued awareness throughout the rest of the year, the public is beginning to realize gum disease is truly an epidemic. Thankfully, now patients also have the option to get treated with the LANAP protocol, a minimally-invasive treatment that doesn’t require cutting and sewing, provides excellent results and requires much less downtime for the patient. It’s even been awarded Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance for its ability to regrow bone and gum tissue lost to gum disease. Find a clinician near you.

You may have felt a little lazy in the past to commit to flossing or brushing twice a day, and those dental checkups may have slid from twice a year to once every couple. In the big scheme of things, making these things a part of your daily and yearly checklist won’t take much more effort — and you know all the reasons to improving your oral health to improve your overall health, the health of your loved ones and your self image. So what are you waiting for? Pull out that toothbrush and make it your first resolution for 2018!