Advice for your Dental Health
The best way to avoid getting toothache and other dental problems is to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible. To do this, you should:
- brush your teeth twice a day using a toothpaste that contains fluoride; gently brush your gums and tongue as well
- clean between your teeth using dental floss and, if necessary, use a mouthwash
- limit your intake of sugary foods and drinks; you should have them as an occasional treat and only at mealtimes
- don’t smoke as it can make some dental problems worse
How do I keep my teeth and gums healthy?
It is easy to get your mouth clean and healthy, and keep it that way. A simple routine of brushing for two minutes, twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and cleaning between the teeth, good eating habits, having sugary food and drinks less often and regular dental check-ups can help prevent most dental problems.
Although most people brush regularly, many don’t clean between their teeth and some people don’t have regular dental check-ups. A few small changes in your daily routine can make a big difference in the long run.
Your dentist can remove any build-up of plaque or tartar on your teeth and treat any gum disease that has already appeared. But daily dental care is up to you, and the main weapons are the toothbrush and interdental cleaning (cleaning between the teeth).
What can I do at home?
It is very important that you keep up a good routine at home to keep your teeth and gums healthy. We recommend that you:
- brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day with fluoride toothpaste – this will mean brushing in the way your dentist will have shown you
- clean in between your teeth with ‘interdental’ brushes or floss – brushing alone only cleans up to about 60 percent of the surface of your teeth
- use a mouthwash – this can help to freshen your breath. Many mouthwashes contain antibacterial ingredients to help prevent gum disease, and fluoride to help prevent decay
What about cleaning between my teeth?
Brushing alone only cleans three of the five surfaces of your teeth, so it is important that you also clean between your teeth every day. Your dentist will be able to show you how.
To clean the small gaps between your teeth you can use special ‘interdental’ brushes. These can be on long or short handles for easier use and are generally colour coded for the different-sized gaps between your teeth. Ask your dentist for advice on how to use these products correctly and safely. Pink TEPE brushes are a good starter size.
Dental Floss and Tape
There are several different types of dental floss or tape, including mint-flavoured, wax-coated and ones containing fluoride. Many people prefer tape to floss, as it is wider and can be gentler on the gums.
Toothbrushing tips for Children
- Children should be assisted to brush their teeth as soon as they erupt.
- Brush teeth at least twice a day for at least two minutes with fluoride toothpaste.
- Replace the toothbrush every three months or when the bristles start to splay out.
- Rinse the toothbrush thoroughly after every use and store upright in a clean dry place.
- Children should be encouraged to spit out excess toothpaste and not rinse with water after brushing. This helps the fluoride toothpaste work harder to strengthen the teeth.
- Children who are unable to brush their teeth unaided should be assisted to do so, until about seven years of age.
Research evidence and dental experts agree that establishing a toothbrushing routine at an early age can prevent tooth decay in childhood and later life.
Why is a healthy diet important for my oral health?
Every time you eat or drink anything sugary, your teeth are under acid attack for up to one hour. This is because the sugar will react with the bacteria in plaque (the sticky coating on your teeth) and produce harmful acids. So it is important to cut down on how often you have sugary foods, which will limit the amount of time your teeth are at risk.
Acidic foods and drinks can be just as harmful to your teeth. The acid wears away the enamel, and will leave the dentine uncovered. This is called ‘dental erosion’, and makes your teeth sensitive and less attractive.
What foods can cause decay?
All sugars can cause decay. Sugar can come in many forms, for example: sucrose, fructose, maltose and glucose. These sugars can all damage your teeth.
Many processed foods have sugar in them, and the higher up it appears in the list of ingredients, the more sugar there is in the product. Always read the list of ingredients on the labels when you are food shopping.
When you are reading the labels remember that ‘no added sugar’ does not necessarily mean that the product is sugar free. It simply means that no extra sugar has been added. These products may contain sugars such as those listed above, or the sugars may be listed as ‘carbohydrates’. Ask your dentist if you aren’t sure.
Can I eat snacks?
It is better for your teeth and general health if you eat 3 meals a day plus no more than two snacks, instead of having lots of snack attacks. If you do need to snack between meals, choose foods that do not contain sugar. Fruit does contain acids, which can attack your teeth. However, this is only damaging to your teeth if you eat an unusually large amount. Try to limit dried fruit as it is high in sugar and can stick to your teeth.
If you do eat fruit as a snack, try to eat something alkaline such as cheese afterwards. Savoury snacks are better, such as:
- raw vegetables
Most dental trauma is best treated by the patient’s general dental practitioner but the prompt replantation of teeth that have been knocked out (avulsed teeth) by a patient or carer may save the teeth.
Such teeth should be replanted back into the socket or hole in the gum within an hour after cleaning with normal saline. Milk or normal saline makes an ideal transport medium if the tooth cannot be replanted immediately.
Please seek advice from your dental practitioner or the on call service in Craigavon Area Hospital