Your mouth needs daily maintenance to stay healthy and keep dental diseases at bay. Making good choices for your teeth will have a positive effect on your general health and wellbeing too, and studies have shown that mouth health is linked with overall health.1 Poor oral health has recently been associated with various diseases elsewhere in the body such as cardiovascular disease,2 so it’s more important than ever to prioritise a healthy mouth. Brushing your teeth is the obvious place to start - but check out our other tips to ensure your mouth is as healthy as it can be.
It’s nothing you haven’t heard before - but brushing your teeth twice a day is important. If you don’t do this, your teeth will quickly become coated with a sticky layer of plaque. This is a build-up of bacteria which comes from the food you eat as well as bacteria and mucus which is found naturally inside the mouth. Not brushing your teeth and gums effectively causes gum disease, which is a very common condition characterised by soreness, inflammation and bleeding gums. If left untreated, this can lead to periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease.3
Brush your teeth for two minutes in the morning, and two minutes before you go to bed each night. Make sure you cover every surface of each tooth with your brush, not just the front of your teeth. Use a clean toothbrush no more than six months old. The NHS recommends “a toothbrush with a small head and a compact, angled arrangement of long and short round-end bristles is fine. Medium or soft bristles are best for most people."4
Flossing is a very effective way to remove food particles which get trapped between your teeth after eating and can be left behind even after brushing. Try to make flossing a part of your daily routine. It might seem like a chore at first, but you’ll soon get used to it. It can be very satisfying to know that you’ve removed hard-to-reach food particles which would have otherwise been lurking in your mouth all day attracting harmful bacteria!
Use a toothpaste with fluoride, and don’t rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash immediately after brushing as this can wash away the remnants of fluoride which protects your teeth and strengthens enamel. Use mouth wash after meals instead.
As well as being bad for your overall health, sugar is your teeth’s worst enemy. Bacteria in your mouth uses sugar to produce acid, which is very harmful to teeth’s protective enamel, which is the hard, shiny coating which keeps your teeth strong. Eating and drinking too many sugary things causes an over-production of acid in your mouth, which attacks your enamel and dissolves it, leaving cavities and the high risk of bacterial infection on your teeth. This process is known as dental erosion.
Stay away from all sweets, sugary breakfast cereals, biscuits and milk chocolate. It’s not just obvious sugars which can corrode tooth enamel, either. Starchy foods such as white bread, crisps and savoury crackers will feed the bacteria in your mouth just as quickly as sugar, so watch out for these too. Fruit juice, fizzy drinks and alcohol are to be avoided where possible, as these contain simple sugars which will cause an overgrowth of bacteria and wash over all of your teeth’s surfaces.5 Too many dried fruits are also problematic if you’re looking out for your dental health, which as well as being sugary are also sticky, meaning they can stick bacteria on the surface of your teeth.
Instead, eat a diet full of fibrous fruits and vegetables, wholegrain rice and breads, and choose teas and water to drink. Staying hydrated is key, as saliva in the mouth washes away excess bacteria which is then swallowed and eliminated by the body as a waste product. Drink plenty of water, as well as herbal teas which can help reduce bad bacteria in the mouth.
Foods that are alkaline can help you cancel out the effects of acid on your tooth enamel.6 Dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt are alkaline, and they give you a dose of calcium and phosphate which are needed for building strong teeth, so a cube of cheese and a handful of almonds is a far better choice for your teeth (and overall health) than a cereal bar or bag of starchy crisps.
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