We often get told how to take care of our physical health: foods we should and shouldn’t eat, a recommended amount of exercise, and an ability to maintain a positive work-life balance. However, something which may have slipped your mind is your dental health. Taking care of your teeth is so important in helping to maintain your overall health, but often it can be overlooked.
The World Health Organisation claims that nearly 100% of adults worldwide have a dental cavity! This staggering figure demonstrates the lack of knowledge and care which we have towards our teeth. Maintaining a healthy mouth means preventing cavities (holes in the teeth), tooth loss, discolouring, stains and gum disease. A small hole in your teeth may not sound like the end of the world, but it is a vulnerability which opens up the door for all sorts of potential complications.
A good oral health routine is much easier to stick to than you might think, and well worth the effort. As well as the health benefits, you can feel more confident in your smile when you know that your teeth look and feel great. There are some really simple ways to protect your mouth from problems, most of which you can do on a daily basis.
Brushing Your Teeth
One of the most most important ways to keep your mouth healthy is by regularly brushing your teeth. Brushing twice a day is crucial, and is a habit you should start if you aren’t doing so already. Throughout the day, food and bacteria stick to your teeth. Bacteria feeds on the food debris stuck in your mouth and multiplies, creating a biofilm called plaque. When plaque becomes acidic, or hardens, oral health problems can occur, such as tooth decay. Brushing your teeth regularly disrupts the plaque and reduces the chances of tooth decay.
The next important thing to note about brushing your teeth is that you should use a fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride is a mineral which actively prevents tooth decay, or even reverses it, by strengthening the enamel in your teeth, therefore exposing your teeth to fluoride through brushing and using mouthwash is a good way maintain a healthy mouth. Fluoride can also be found in some water supplies, but while fluoride in your drinking water is a great supplement to toothpaste it should not be considered an alternative!
You’ve probably heard that you should floss, but do you really know why it is so important? Floss is able to reach those areas in between your teeth which your toothbrush simply can’t get to, removing plaque which builds up in these gaps. It’s this difficult-to-reach plaque which can cause problems within the mouth, hence the importance of flossing! When you first start using floss it’s quite normal for your gums to bleed slightly. However, as you do it more regularly this should stop and will have multiple benefits on your dental health. Aim to floss after mealtimes as this is when food can get stuck.
Food And Your Teeth
As well as making sure you have a good oral hygiene routine, it is equally important to be aware that the food you put in your mouth can have a dramatic effect on your teeth. Some foods which can be very bad for your teeth in terms of staining and discolouring. Others have a very high amount of sugar which can lead to dental cavities (this is because the bacteria in your mouth converts sugar into acid).
Sugary foods such as chocolate, pastries and sweets are known to be bad for our teeth. However, did you know that sauces such as tomato ketchup and salad dressing are also bad as they contain a lot of hidden sugar? Citrus fruits and berries also contain natural sugars and colours which can stain your teeth.
Of course, it’s difficult to avoid these foods all the time. With this in mind, the best thing you can do is to stick to having sugary foods at mealtimes only. Snacking throughout the day is one of the worst things you can do. The more times you consume sugar, the more opportunities bacteria has to produce acid. If you would like a snack inbetween meals, sugar free foods like carrot sticks or cheese are a healthier alternative. Additionally, rinsing your mouth with water after eating can help to remove any sugar left on your teeth and also help to prevent staining.
Drinks And Your Teeth
Unfortunately, it’s not just food that you need to be aware of. That lovely morning coffee, tea, fruit juice or sports drinks can stain teeth, and might contain more hidden sugar than you realise. Limiting the amount you drink these liquids will help. Limit them to mealtimes and aim to drink through a straw as this reduces the contact your teeth has with sugar. Many alcoholic beverages are also bad for staining. Red wine, cider, port and coffee-based cocktails can be damaging. Rinsing your mouth with water between having these beverages is a good idea for your teeth.
Visit Your Dentist
The best way to make sure that you are correctly taking care of your teeth is by visiting the dentist. Don’t wait until you feel some pain in your mouth before going, as by this point the problem may be worse. Booking an appointment for a check up means the dentist can assess your teeth to make sure everything looks healthy. A dental check up involves looking for cavities, gum disease and even signs of oral cancer, which is why it’s so important for you to make an appointment.
Your dentist will be able to spot any problems occurring in your mouth, answer questions you may have, and advise you further on your oral hygiene practices. Your dentist is there to help you and wants to see your teeth look happy and healthy!
About the author
Dr Jenny Kabir is the clinical director of Fresh Dental Smile Clinic, she has a wealth of knowledge and experience about general and cosmetic dentistry, making Fresh Dental Smile Clinic an award-winning practice in York.