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7 oral health mistakes you may be making – and how to get it right

Updated: May 25, 2023

Girl brushing her teeth looking thoughtful

We’re all big boys and girls and we’ve been looking after our teeth for as long as we can remember, right?

But what about if we’ve been doing it wrong all this time?

Whether it’s something you never knew in the first place or a bad habit you’ve picked up along the way, here are the seven top oral health mistakes you may be making – and how to get it right.

Ignoring a problem

Bleeding gums, sensitive teeth, lingering bad breath…we’ve all experienced these issues from time to time and not given them too much thought, assuming they’ll sort themselves out in a few days.

Swollen, bleeding gums can be a sign of gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease. It’s caused by a build-up of plaque, a sticky bacterial substance that irritates your gums. You can usually get rid of gingivitis yourself by stepping up your oral hygiene routine, including cleaning between your teeth with an interdental brush or floss. But if the symptoms linger on, it’s time to make a dental appointment, as gingivitis can develop into more serious periodontal disease (periodontitis).

Likewise, persistent bad breath, sensitive teeth and pain while chewing can signal periodontal disease. Periodontitis won’t go away on its own. In fact, if left unchecked, it will only get worse, so it’s crucial to see your dentist for the appropriate care, which may include specialist gum disease treatment.

Chipped or cracked teeth should be checked over by a dentist, even if you’re not in any pain. If left alone you could end up with problems including tooth sensitivity, decay and root canal infection.

Missing dental check-ups

Whether it’s because you’re too busy, don’t like going to the dentist, or you're not experiencing any dental problems, you might be tempted to think that skipping a check-up isn’t such a big deal.

But, when it comes to dental health mistakes, this is a big one! It’s actually one of the most important things you can do to keep your dental health in check and avoid more expensive and invasive treatment further down the line.

During a routine check-up, your dentist can spot any potential problems before they make themselves known to you. And any treatment you may need will be much easier and cheaper than before the problem's had a chance to become established.

Your current dental health will dictate your check-up schedule. People with good oral health will only need to go every one to two years, while those with any problems will need to attend more regularly.

Not seeing a hygienist

As well as your dentist check-ups, make sure you add hygienist appointments to your self-MOT list to ensure your teeth and gums are kept in tip-top condition.

Not only do hygienists give your teeth a thorough clean, known as a scale and polish, they look for early signs of gum disease and will give you tips on your cleaning routine as well.

How often you’ll need to see a hygienist will depend on your own personal circumstances. If you have good oral health, you’ll only need to go on an annual or bi-annual basis. Those with ongoing issues such as gum disease, or those with crowns, bridges or dentures may need to see their hygienist every three to six months.

Not brushing for long enough

In day of 1041 minutes, spending just four of them looking after your teeth seems like a drop in the ocean. However, if you’re honest, do you really spend the recommended two minutes, twice day on brushing? Whether we’re rushing out the door or desperate to go to bed, we might be forgiven for scrimping on good-quality teeth-cleaning time.

But if you’re consistently putting in less hours, it can have a detrimental impact on your oral health.

Making a commitment to your cleaning regime starts with ensuring you brush your teeth thoroughly each time and for the right amount of time. Many electric toothbrushes have a built-in timer to make this job easier. If yours doesn’t, you can use the timer function on your phone, download an app or buy a toothbrush timer specifically for this purpose.

And even if two minutes has passed, ensure you’ve cleaned every surface of every tooth before you hang up your brush.

Find yourself bored during those two minutes? Why not listen to a song, read an article or do some squats, calf raises or pelvic floor exercises at the same time?

Brushing too hard

In some ways, brushing too hard can be just as bad for your teeth as not brushing at all, as a heavy-handed brushing technique can do damage to your teeth and gums.

Over time, overzealous brushing can cause your gums to recede and wear away the tooth enamel, both of which can cause tooth sensitivity and risk of decay.

If you’ve noticed bleeding or the beginnings of gum recession, it might be because you’re brushing too hard. Look for an electric toothbrush with a built-in pressure sensor or consider changing to a soft-bristled brush.

Plaque isn’t a hard substance, so it can be removed with gentle brushing. And use circular motions rather than a back-and-forth motion to ensure a more effective clean.

Another way of telling if you’re brushing too hard? Next time you change your toothbrush or toothbrush head, keep an eye on its bristles. If they’re becoming frayed within a few weeks, then you need to ease up on your brushing power.

Brushing too soon after eating

While we’re on the subject of dental abrasion, another faux pas is brushing too soon after eating.

That’s because certain acidic foods such as tomatoes, citrus fruits and fizzy drinks can attack can weaken your enamel. If you then go in with a brush, you’ll be brushing weakened enamel before your saliva has a chance to neutralise the acid.

So instead of brushing straight after eating or drinking, wait at least 30 minutes for your saliva to do its job. Feel free to chew sugar-free gum to increase saliva production or rinse your mouth with water instead.

Not checking your mouth regularly

A self-check of your mouth takes only a couple of minutes and yet it’s something that very few of us do.

Mouth cancer affects roughly 8,300 people in the UK each year and can develop in most parts of the mouth. However, if it’s caught early, the chances of surviving mouth cancer are nine out of ten, so it makes sense to keep an eye out for any changes in your mouth.

The most common symptoms of mouth cancer are ulcers or sores that don’t heal within three weeks. Other things to look for are white or red patches that don’t go away or lumps in the mouth or lymph glands in the neck. The Mouth Cancer Foundation has a good guide on how to check yourself.

There we have seven dental health mistakes that we all may make. Hopefully you’ll have seen that with a bit of extra care, we can make sure that we stay on top of our dental health and avoid problems further down the line.

And if you need a little assistance, whether that’s for gum disease treatment or root canal treatment in Sherburn, Leeds, York, Selby or the surrounding areas, Dr Matthew Gahan is here to help. He is a registered periodontist and endodontist and has over 21 years of experience in these specialist fields.

To book a consultation with Dr Gahan, just get in touch with the team at Finkle Hill Dental Care on 01977 682200 or email

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