The most important steps to healthy teeth for life
We underestimate the importance of a happy and healthy smile. There are simple steps you can take in your day-to-day life to preserve your teeth and promote oral hygiene.
1. Brush your teeth – correctly
Brushing your teeth regularly is vital to remove food particles and harmful bacteria, or plaque, which can damage the enamel which protects your teeth. Over time, this can lead to tooth decay and cracked teeth, which results in fillings.
You shouldn’t brush immediately after consuming acidic food or drink such as wine and citrus fruit as this softens the enamel of teeth. Brushing straight away can accelerate the erosion of the enamel. To prevent this, drink or rinse your mouth with water immediately after eating or drinking. Ideally, wait at least 30 minutes after eating or drinking to brush your teeth – or better, brush them before.
We all know we need to brush our teeth to keep them healthy, but many of us aren’t brushing as well as we could. Here are some top tips on how to brush correctly:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes – First thing in the morning and before bedtime
- Adults and children should use fluoride toothpaste, as this helps protect your tooth enamel from breakdown
- Brush gently in circular strokes, remember you’re trying to brush every surface of each tooth. And give your tongue a brush to remove any bacteria
- Make sure you also brush the gum line, where your gums meet your teeth, but be careful, because brushing too hard could damage the gums
2. Don’t forget to floss
Many of us don’t realise it, but flossing is just as important as brushing our teeth. Flossing removes plaque and food particles from places that a toothbrush can’t access, such as the small gaps between your teeth.
To do this, you can use traditional floss or interdental brushes, which are small brushes specially designed to clean between your teeth where a regular brush cannot reach.
Choose an interdental brush that can fit into the small gaps between your teeth then gently slide the brush head into these spaces working your way around the whole mouth. You should not need to force the brush into the gaps between your teeth.
When flossing, slide the floss down between each tooth and carefully slide it below the gum line to ensure you get those hard to reach places.
3. Cut back on sugar
Sugar is one of the biggest enemies of healthy teeth as it encourages plaque to develop. If plaque is fed with further carbohydrates upon which it can feast, it produces acid as a by-product. This acid breaks down the tooth enamel, leading to tooth decay. If left unchecked and untreated, decay can tunnel deep into the teeth resulting in pain or tooth loss.
The foods to beware of are those with added and refined sugars such as sweets, biscuits and pastries. When buying food, get in the habit of checking nutritional labels and opt for foods low in added sugars. Avoid sweet snacks which stick to your mouth such as toffee and sticky sweets as these encourage even more plaque to develop.
4. Eat your sugar sensibly
It’s unlikely you’ll be able to cut sugar out completely- but try and eat it as part of meals, rather than as snacks. Saliva production rises during meals which helps rinse out food and acid from the mouth.
Sugar triggers the bacteria in your mouth to produce acids that attack your tooth enamel and lead to tooth decay. These acids do the most damage in the 20 minutes after eating, so the more regularly you eat sugary foods during the day, the more often you are exposing your teeth to these attacks. Try and keep any sugary treats to one portion during the day.
5. Eat a healthy diet
Teeth, like all parts of the body, thrive with good nutrition which means a healthy balanced diet is vital for maintaining healthy teeth for life.
A balanced diet should include a mix of the following:
- Complex carbohydrates (e.g. potatoes and rice)
- Essential fatty acids (e.g. oily fish such as salmon)
- Essential amino acids from proteins (e.g. eggs and poultry)
- A mixture of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C and calcium
- Plenty of water
When someone eats a very poor diet, good dental health is one of the first things to go. A diet low in nutrients can mean your mouth and teeth struggle to fight off infection so become more susceptible to certain oral diseases. A poor diet heavy in refined carbohydrates and sugars will contribute to tooth decay and gum disease.
Some foods that are particularly good for your teeth include:
- Cheese- for its pH lowering properties, calcium and protein
- Yoghurt- for its probiotic good bacteria, calcium and protein
- Leafy green vegetables such as kale or spinach- which are high in calcium and contain folic acid
- Apples- which help clean the mouth out at the end of a meal
- Carrots- for their vitamin A
- Celery- which acts a bit like a toothbrush and contains vitamins A and C
- Almonds- which are low in sugar but contain calcium and protein.
6. Make sure to get regular check-ups
You should visit the dentist or dental hygienist for a regular check-up as recommended by your current dentist, depending on your dental health.
During a check-up, your dentist will check each tooth’s nooks and crannies, as well as looking at the gums and mouth, to ensure there are no early signs of decay that need addressing before they do further damage. They will also ensure there is no evidence of mouth cancer or any other nasty diseases, which you might not know about.
7. See the hygienist
Seeing the hygienist is crucial for maintaining a healthy mouth. This involves the dental hygienist scraping away any plaque and food particles gathered along or below the gum line. This deep clean gets rid of hidden build ups of plaque that could lead to cavities, gum disease and more. Your teeth are then polished to give them an extra shine.
If you follow all the steps above, you’ll be more likely to maintain strong healthy teeth and good oral hygiene.