Are you aware that the health of your teeth, mouth and gums is closely linked to your overall health and wellbeing? It follows that we need to pay special attention to our mouths - to keep them in mint condition - so that we feel the benefits in our bodies and throughout our lives.
Tooth decay, gum disease and toothwear are the world’s most common (and entirely preventable) diseases. But with three out of four adults not realising they have gum disease1, it’s important to stick to regular dentist appointments - even if you think there’s nothing wrong.
A powered toothbrush will undoubtedly remove more of that unwelcome plaque than a manual one.2 But whichever you choose, keep the bristles looking healthy by changing it every three months and brush with a fluoride toothpaste for two minutes, twice a day. Ideally wait an hour after eating or drinking, to avoid the time when your tooth enamel is softer.
Your toothbrush isn’t designed to get to the hidden gaps between your teeth. Daily flossing or using interdental brushes is the best way to deal with these tricky areas to stop plaque in its tracks. This helps prevent gum disease and more serious bone damage further down the line.
Choosing the right toothpaste (with around 1450ppm fluoride for adults) will help protect your teeth and avoid tooth decay. The concentrated toothpaste continues to work on your teeth when you’ve finished brushing, so spit, don’t rinse (not even with a fluoride mouthwash).
It’s no surprise that smoking presents multiple risks to your oral health. Nicotine-stained teeth don’t just look, smell and taste bad, they can also attract more plaque. Smoking makes your gums less resistant to harmful bacteria and more likely to become diseased. The ultimate risk however lies in the fact that smokers are up to ten times more likely to suffer from mouth cancer. The good news is that by giving up tobacco, many of the negative effects on the mouth, teeth and gums are reversible.3,4
Your mouth is a war zone with sugar and acids attacking your teeth and creating cavities. Reducing the amount and frequency of sugary food and drink is critical in your battle against tooth decay and toothwear.5 Avoid sugary snacks and energy drinks in-between meals and at bedtime so your natural defences can resist the sugar onslaught, and follow the Eatwell Guide for the optimal healthy diet.6
Alcoholic drinks can be very acidic and high in sugar, creating multiple pitfalls: the acidity erodes your teeth enamel; sugar combines with plaque to cause tooth decay; and when there’s a high alcohol content, your saliva flow - which neutralises harmful acids - is reduced. The greatest danger however lies in the estimate that heavy drinkers (who smoke) are 38 times more likely to develop mouth cancer than people who do neither.7
It’s easy to fall into bad habits when it comes to your teeth, but there are some golden rules to help prevent many problems with your mouth, teeth and gums: only use your teeth for chewing food; don’t use them as tools to tear packing tape or open plastic packages and bottles; and don’t chew on pencils, fingernails or crunch on ice.
Eating a balanced diet, drinking water and generally sticking to best practice oral hygiene is a great preventative action that will deliver front line care for your mouth. Limiting certain food and drinks like tea and coffee, red wine, cola and curry, or rinsing with water afterwards can reduce stains on your teeth. Stopping smoking is an essential first step in reversing the visual impact of nicotine.
It’s our gift as to how mouth and teeth-aware our children become. Like those timeless lessons on how to cross the road, it’s up to us to sow the seeds that’ll last a lifetime. From tooth-brushing to sugar swaps and accepting trips to the dentist as part of everyday life. We need to make sure those tiny mouths have a fighting chance to be safe from risks and become healthier – and smilier - with every year that passes.
Awareness of these top tips and prioritising the ones that will make the most difference to you - based on your life, your family, your teeth, your habits and your health - will increase your chances of preventing mouth, teeth and gum problems.
But, if you feel the need to prioritise one tip, always choose to stay up to date with your dental appointments. Your dentist is your best ally, there to spot warning signs and work with you to come up with a life-long plan that will keep your mouth, teeth, and gums healthy – so you can live a better life.
1 Time to take gum disease seriously, The Economist Intelligence Unit, https://impact.economist.com/perspectives/sites/default/files/eiu-efp-oralb-gum-disease.pdf
2 A comparison of the efficacy of powered and manual toothbrushes in controlling plaque and gingivitis: a clinical study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3652371/
3 Quit smoking this Stoptober, NHS https://www.nhs.uk/better-health/quit-smoking/
4 Tobacco, oral cancer and treatment of dependence, Warnakulasuriya, Sutherland and Scully, 2005 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15743687/
5, 6 Delivering better oral health, Public Health England: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/delivering-better-oral-health-an-evidence-based-toolkit-for-prevention
7 Alcohol and Cancer, William Blot 1992, https://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/52/7_Supplement/2119s