It goes without say, but brushing your teeth at least twice a day for at least two minutes is your strongest defence against tooth decay and gum problems. Although the majority of adults and young people know the importance of a good brushing regime, surveys suggest that we often skip brushing from time to time as a result of work commitments, travel, forgetfulness and even just because we are too tired. Basically, life gets in the way. The problem is, the longer you go without brushing your teeth, the longer your teeth are exposed to acid attack, and as a result, the risk of decay is considerably higher – especially if this is a regular scenario. No matter how hectic life gets, make a concerted effort to find time to brush – your smile will thank you for it.
Adding dental flossing to your daily routine can significantly improve your oral hygiene? Dental floss helps to prevent the buildup of plaque, which can lead to tartar. It also ensures that excess food particles that you may not see in the mirror or in areas that your toothbrush doesn’t reach are removed, helping to prevent decay.
In addition, flossing also encourages you to become more aware of your teeth and gums. Getting into the habit of regularly examining your teeth, gums and tongue means that you will be more likely to spot early signs and symptoms of problems such as oral cancer.
Did you know that good oral hygiene has implications for your general health as well? There’s an increasing amount of evidence linking periodontal disease to an increased risk of heart disease, although more studies are needed to confirm this link. It is now believed that infections in the mouth can increase the levels of inflammatory substances in the blood, which can promote blood clots and slow blood flow to the heart. There is also evidence that bacteria from a mouth infection can easily enter the bloodstream and impact your cardiovascular system.
Using a quality, fluoride mouthwash once or twice a day as part of your oral hygiene routine can help to provide additional protection against plaque and tooth decay. However, the NHS and leading dental health authorities advise against rinsing directly after brushing your teeth, as this can wash away a lot of the concentrated fluoride from your toothpaste. Instead, they advise using mouthwash at a different time of day, for example after lunch. It is also worth noting that for best results, avoid eating or drinking for at least thirty minutes after using mouthwash.
Here’s one that your waistline will thank you for as much as your teeth – cut back on snacks between meals. Every time you eat or drink anything sugary, your teeth are attacked by acid for up to one hour. This is because the sugar reacts with the bacteria in plaque (the sticky coating on your teeth) and produces harmful acids. Acidic drinks and foods are also extremely harmful. In addition, starchy residue from savoury snacks such as crisps and even bread can provide a perfect environment for acid to form. By limiting how often you consume food, you reduce the overall amount of time that your teeth are subjected to attack, helping to reduce the risk of decay.
Chewing gum most certainly isn’t an alternative to brushing and flossing, but dental organisations now recognise that chewing on sugar-free gum after eating or drinking can help to produce more saliva, which helps to protect your teeth by neutralising the acid.
Website last updated: January 2021
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