There’s little that can beat an attractive smile. Numerous studies have been carried out over the years which point out that we’re subconsciously attracted to people with whiter teeth, as well as those who smile more.
However, despite all the technological advances happening in the world of dental care, which make it ever easier to maintain a winning smile and fresh breath all day long, very few people have changed their oral care routine over the years.
Most people still subscribe to the “2-minutes-of-brushing” philosophy perhaps accompanied by some mouth wash or an occasional floss. And that’s on a good day. National Smile Month reports that a quarter of us don’t even bother brushing twice a day, while a third of people have never flossed at all.
So, what should you really be doing to keep your smile healthy for years to come…?
Target Your Gums
Most of us brush our teeth twice a day; first thing in the morning and just before bed. These are also the same times when we’re at our most tired, so it’s tempting to do a half-hearted job and just move onto the next task.
If you want to keep your teeth in top condition your goal should be to reach every surface of every tooth. That means the front, back and top. Also, don’t forget to clean between your teeth using interdental brushes or floss. The process should take you at least two minutes, and is typically more effective with an electric toothbrush than the manual equivalent.
However, for best results you need to be thinking about more than your pearly-whites alone. An effective oral care routine should also entail cleaning your gums with a soft toothbrush to keep them healthy. Remember that bleeding gums can be a sign of disease, so be sure to consult your dentist for advice under these circumstances.
Beware of De-Mineralization
Human teeth are covered by a thin – yet tough – layer of enamel. This coating helps to keep your teeth strong, and protects them from damage. It’s what enables you to chew through tough steak or the hard outer shell of a nut.
However, enamel isn’t permanent, and levels of protection can vary over time.
For example, some pregnant women can suffer from demineralization, especially in the final trimester. This is because the baby is drawing huge mineral resources to build its skeleton at this stage in the pregnancy.
Additionally, as enamel is quite pH-sensitive, some food and drink can also cause damage. Particularly acidic beverages like orange juice or soda can attack tooth enamel, though there are solutions.
Firstly, it is important to say that the human body can naturally repair thinning enamel, thanks to the calcium, phosphate and fluoride found in saliva. A small number of premium toothpastes on the market also promise to assist with the process, though tooth remineralization is far from a quick process.
The key lesson here, though, is that avoiding foods that are particularly acidic can help to preserve enamel protection. If you simply must drink that cola on a hot summer’s day then chew sugar-free gum afterward, which will increase salivary flow and help to limit the damage done.
Perhaps the most important tip of all, however, is not to brush your teeth soon after consuming acidic food or drink. Doing so increases the chances of damage to your important tooth enamel. Remember: take care of your teeth, and your teeth will take care of you.
Tongue Scraping is as Important as Brushing
It has been estimated that over half of us experience bad breath from time to time, with almost one in four suffering from persistent bad breath. What is perhaps rather more surprising is that most commonly the cause is actually your tongue as much as your teeth.
The human tongue contains thousands of little pits, in which so-called sulphur-producing bacteria can live. The impact of these bacteria can be worsened by several factors. Firstly, our mouths constantly slough off cells naturally, and bacteria love to feed on this rich source of protein.
Secondly, food particles tend to get lodged at the rear of the tongue, which combine with sloughed epithelial cells and sulphur-producing bacteria to create a “perfect storm”.
Oddly, studies suggest that scraping the tongue can be more beneficial for solving bad breath than brushing alone, assuming the problem doesn’t originate from periodontal disease.
Avoid Alcohol-Containing Mouthwash
We all know that mouthwash helps to keep your teeth in good condition while fighting bad breath, but what you might not know is that mouthwash can have a darker side.
Many popular mouthwashes contain alcohol, which helps to give it that refreshing, zingy experience. Some manufacturers also claim that the alcohol helps to kill off the harmful bacteria which can contribute to cavities and bad breath.
Scientists have discovered, however, that alcohol can dry out the palette, reducing the effectiveness of our own saliva to fight these bacteria. While alcohol-containing mouthwash may make your breath smell fresh and minty for some time afterward, the results can decline significantly thereafter.
Indeed, it has been suggested that the minty breath most people experience after using mouthwash is little more than the flavouring of the liquid, rather than anything that it is doing to your oral bacteria.
If you want to keep your breath fresh around the clock a better course of action is to try one of the small range of mouth rinses deliberately designed without alcohol. These don’t dry out the mouth, and can have far longer-reaching impacts on keeping your breath smelling fresh.
Use Saliva to Your Advantage
Human saliva has some incredible properties. Firstly, it starts to process of digesting your food, with an estimated 30% of the food you eat actually being broken down before it reaches the stomach. Saliva is also known to have wound healing properties, as well as acting as an anti-bacterial.
Possibly most interesting of all, however, is its ability to keep your teeth in good condition. Saliva not only helps to wash away microscopic food particles that would otherwise be fed on by odour-causing bacteria, but its pH can also help to keep bacterial load under control.
As these bacteria are kept in check, so it is less likely that they will attack your teeth and cause cavities.
To benefit fully from your saliva’s near-magical properties you should be sure to consume suitable fluids to avoid a dry mouth at all times. In addition, consider stimulating saliva production after eating or drinking by chewing sugar-free gum or mints, thus giving you one more level of protection.