By Virginia McMillan, D.D.S.

With all of the resolutions made this season, bring your teeth and gums in to "shake up" the daily routine. Try some of these ideas at home to help you enjoy the process:

* Brush your teeth in the shower. The polish rinses down the drain. You come out fresh and clean all over. And it saves having to clean toothpaste out of the sink. Easy!

* "Flossing" can sound and feel like nagging, especially if you are frustrated with the floss texture or pressure between teeth. Come into a dental office and ask for samples of each of their flosses. Find the one that feels comfortable to use a few minutes each day.

* Family members can challenge each other to make sure the plaque is all gone from your teeth. Plaque is a thin layer of food that is often invisible. Those little red tablets ("Red Cote") are not only for children learning where their toothbrush misses food on their teeth. Split one tab in half, then challenge your family member to join you as a "pop quiz": Brush your teeth, then chew the tablet, and rinse. Brush off any red- stained food plaque areas. Since we can use the brushing skills first learned in elementary school, it is a quick, fun way to ‘check up' on technique at any age.

* Drinking more water each day? Save the enamel on your teeth: When you eat sour foods, or drink carbonated or lemon-added beverages, finish the item quickly and then rinse, swish and swallow water as a chaser. Your saliva then buffers any acids more rapidly, and the mineral on your teeth will stay firm and strong. Save sour/acidic foods for mealtime, so they don't linger in your mouth.

* Get back to basics: Call and schedule a dental exam visit. Have a review of your oral tissues in light of other health conditions you may have. Ask questions. Complete treatment to remove dangerous bacterial products and cellular inflammation that can make heart disease, stroke risk, diabetes, pregnancy complications and osteoporosis difficult to manage. When your gums and teeth are healthy, they are easier to maintain.

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