I absolutely adore this picture that came up for me when I was looking for photos of self-care. Why? Because this.Is.ME. My idea of self-care is staying in bed as long as my schedule (and bladder) can stand it in the morning.
I LOVE my bed. I bought it at a place I found out later was a clearing house for beds that were returned from previous customers. (EEEK!) Honestly, don’t care. The bottom sheet’s elastic is all worn out so it may as well be a top sheet. Don’t care. What I DO care about is how I feel when I allow myself to extend my bed time: refreshed; rejuvenated; luxurious.
Wikepedia states, “In health care, self-care is any necessary human regulatory function which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated. Self-care and health care providers can be considered to be opposing ends on a health-related continuum or a complex relationship.” Ouch. How stark and impersonal. And sad. I never considered myself on the opposing side of my patients. In fact, quite the opposite! I have always tried to engage with and be a helping hand in my patients’ oral health on their path to overall health. In my professional world, dental health care is literally self-care – isn’t it? Isn’t oral care part of any person’s daily self-care routine?
Our self-care in general often gets neglected. As women, we are natural caregivers — responsible for other people’s lives — with our needs often being overlooked, delayed, or outright denied. When we do take time for ourselves we can feel guilty, thinking of a hundred other things we can be doing instead of sleeping in, for example.
Fortunately, there are many ways we can re-engage in and reinforce the importance of self-care. Establishing routine is #1 in my book. Dr. Tchiki Davis of Psychology Today states it this way, “Schedule your self-care time, and guard that time with everything you have. “ I could not agree more. Making the time to care for ourselves is of extreme importance because that is time we will never, ever get back.
Self-care must be a priority with (at the very least) equal importance to anything or anyone else in our lives. If we don’t provide our basic needs for ourselves, who will? Self-care is important to maintaining a healthy relationship with ourselves. Not only do I want my patients to like their smiles when they look at themselves in the mirror, I also want them to feel proud of the effort they are putting into their teeth and gums to ensure their longevity, health and beauty.
So, what does it take to provide good self-care for our mouths? It really can be quite simple, if we put our minds to it. There are so many wonderful toothbrushes, toothpastes, mouthwashes, flosses, flossers, etc., to choose from. There is a reason there isn’t just one! One toothpaste cannot help everybody. That being said, the American Dental Association has started the hashtag: #twominutestwotimesaday to remind us that, no matter how many teeth we have, we all need to brush two minutes, two times a day, regardless if it is a manual or an electric toothbrush.
There is a very basic recipe, if you will, to healthy oral care:
- Brush two minutes two times a day. I recommend an electric toothbrush. Sonicare has one on Amazon for about $35 that runs on two AA batteries. I change my brush head and the batteries at the same time – every three months. Sonicare toothbrushes are pressure sensitive, meaning we cannot cause toothbrush enamel abrasion from trying to scrub our teeth.
- Floss every day. I truly don’t care when you do, but do try to get at least one meal out every day. The purpose of floss is to remove plaque (bacteria, bacterial poop, and excess food stuffs (mostly carbs/ultra-processed foods) that cannot be digested by our saliva.
- Most of my patients that work from home tend to skip breakfast and go right to work first thing in the morning. So floss after lunch! I floss on the way home from work every day. I am a captive audience, and I am getting two meals out between my teeth.
- Use an alcohol-free mouthwash twice a day. Rinse with it, spit it out, and walk away. Why? Because we want time to have the essential ingredients in an antiseptic mouthwash to do its job: protect our teeth and gums. Now I am very pro-alcohol, but I do not want any alcohol in my mouthwash. This is because alcohol is a drying agent, and harsh on our salivary glands. Alcohol free, fluoride-based mouthwashes protect our teeth and our gums from unnecessary dental visits. 22 years as a dentist and I have seen this: those that don’t use fluoride are more likely to have tooth infections than those that don’t use fluoride.
- Dental offices should be judgment free zones. I help educate and recommend. I have several patients who do not use fluoride-based dental products and we have found alternatives to help promote their oral health.
Drink flat water (unless you are making fizzy water at home), and consume everything else in moderation. We should feel like we accomplished something when we take care of ourselves, oral care included.
I really like this anonymous quote, “Put yourself at the top of your to-do list every single day, and the rest will fall into place.” Our mouths deserve the best care we can provide. After all, Self Care = Oral Care.
Content provided by Women Belong member Joy Poskozim