Be honest - how well do you take of your teeth? With our busy lives and the many demands on our attention, it can be hard to give our teeth the care they deserve. Aside from the requisite twice-daily brushing (we may even remember to floss once in a while), we generally forget about them - until they speak up with a painful reminder.
So, what more can you do to keep your pearly whites in tip-top condition? From correct brushing to selective snacking, here are our tips for healthy teeth and gums.
Invest in the right gear
Look for a soft to medium-bristle toothbrush with a small head. Whether you opt for manual or electric is down to personal preference, however recent studies have shown that electric toothbrushes are more effective at cleaning than manual brushing. Not only that, but their use has also shown to result in 22% less gum recession and 18% less tooth decay over an 11-year period.
You’ll need to change your toothbrush head around every three months, or as soon as the bristles become worn.
Perfect your cleaning routine
A good oral hygiene routine involves brushing twice a day and flossing once. Floss your teeth before brushing so you can remove the debris the floss removes with your brush.
Using an interdental brush or dental floss, slip it between each tooth to dislodge any food and remove plaque that could be forming along the gum line.
Next, using a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste, gently move the toothbrush head over the entire area of each tooth, including the gum line. Don’t forget those hard-to-reach areas such as the back teeth.
Don’t rinse after brushing as you’ll wash away the protective fluoride.
Keep on top of your dental check-ups
Regular check-ups are key to healthy teeth and gums. Your dentist will examine your mouth, teeth and gums to make sure everything looks ok and arrange for further treatment to be carried out if necessary.
According to the NHS, check-ups can occur from every three months up to two years. If there are no problems, you can wait longer between check-ups, but if your dentist spots any problems, you’ll need to be seen more frequently.
That said, if you have any issues between appointments, don’t wait until your next check-up, make an appointment with your dentist as soon as you can.
…and your hygienist appointments too
Whether it’s because of a busy schedule or a fear of treatment, some people may think that seeing a hygienist is a skippable step as long as they’re careful with their oral hygiene at home.
However, a hygienist is an essential piece of your oral health picture as they will carry out a much deeper clean. They will get rid of any plaque or tartar build-up and polish away superficial stains.
They will also look for signs of gum disease and give you tips on how to keep up a good cleaning regimen at home.
Most people should see a hygienist every six months to a year, but if you have gum disease, crowns, bridges or dentures, you may need to see the hygienist more frequently. If gum disease is detected, depending on the severity, they may also refer you to a periodontist for specialist gum disease treatment.
Chew it over
Sugar-free gum is an effective tool in the fight against plaque and bacteria, especially when you’re out and about.
Chewing causes your mouth to produce more saliva. The saliva neutralises the enamel-attacking acids that are produced by the sugars in the food and drink we consume.
Why not consider biodegradable gum to help protect the planet as well as your teeth.
Don’t brush straight after eating
While you may be tempted to brush immediately after eating, particularly if you’re heading straight out the door, you’re not doing your teeth any favours. Food acids sit on your teeth and if you brush too soon, you could be helping them erode your tooth. Always wait 20-30 minutes before you brush. If you’re rushing out, rinse your mouth with water and pop in a piece of gum.
Watch your sugar intake
Boring, but true. We all know sugary snacks are our teeth’s worst enemy, but that doesn’t make us immune to the temptation.
However, even if you’re steering away from the usual suspects, be aware that there are hidden sugars in plenty of seemingly innocuous food and drinks. A glass of sparkling wine, for example, can have as much as three teaspoons of sugar in it and foods such as crisps, pasta sauces and even savoury crackers can include sugar.
The answer? Keep sweet treats to after mealtimes to limit your teeth’s exposure and try not to constantly snack throughout the day. Rinse your mouth with water or chew gum after eating to remove food residue and rinse away food acids and bacteria.
Cut back on alcoholic drinks
As if you need another reason to cut back on the booze, alcohol has been linked to a higher risk of tooth decay, tooth erosion and gum disease. Not to mention increasing your risk of mouth cancer.
The recommended amount of alcohol is no more than 14 units (around 6 medium glasses of wine or 6 pints of beer) per week spread over 3 or more days. From establishing drink-free days to switching to no-alcohol alternatives, it can be easier than you think to reduce the amount you drink. The NHS has some good ideas to help you cut back.
If you’re looking for gum disease treatment in Leeds, Selby, York or the surrounding areas, Dr Gahan is a GDC-registered periodontist with over 21 years’ experience. Contact the team at Finkle Hill Dental Care to book a consultation on 01977 682 200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.