A good oral hygiene routine is easy to maintain if you know what you are doing but it is just as easy to disrupt. Even if you think you are doing things right, you may be making mistakes that could harm your teeth in the long run. With that in mind, here are 10 dos and don’ts to help you keep your mouth healthy:
DO floss regularly
Brushing is your primary defence against cavities and tooth decay but it is not the only thing you can do and sometimes it isn’t quite enough. A common problem is that pieces of food get trapped between teeth and brushing doesn’t always remove them. Ignore them and before you know it you have a large build-up of plaque causing you issues. But if you floss regularly, especially after eating, you can avoid this problem.
DON’T snack regularly
Eating small amounts often may be preferable to some but it can have a negative effect on your teeth. Chewing is good for your teeth as it encourages saliva production, which helps neutralise any harmful acids and recalcify your teeth. However, small snacks only require enough chewing to begin production but not enough to produce sufficient saliva to protect your teeth from the acids produced by what you just ate. For this reason, sugar-free gum is far preferable.
DO brush twice a day
This is a well-known tip but one that many people continue to ignore. Brushing twice a day is vital however, as is the timing. When you sleep, the bacteria in your mouth is free to run wild and breed and, since you are asleep, you are in no position to stop it. This is why your breath can smell in the morning and so early brushing is vital to remove it before it does any damage. Evening brushing is important too as the food you have eaten throughout the day has provided the bacteria with plenty of fuel to create plaque.
DON’T brush straight after eating
A common misconception is that brushing should be done immediately after meals but this is actually not the case. After eating, the enamel on your teeth has been weakened by acids from your food and is consequently much more vulnerable to damage. Brushing at this point could wear away at the enamel and it is far better to wait around an hour before brushing. Drinking water or chewing gum during this time will also help reduce the acidity in your mouth.
DO replace your toothbrush
You should replace your toothbrush every three months because the longer you use it, the less effective you will be. One reason for this is simple wear and tear as excessive use will weaken the bristles to the point that you are essentially spreading bacteria over your teeth instead of washing it away. Another reason is that bacteria can build up on your brush over time, cancelling out any good you think you might be doing when you brush. The best thing to do is rinse it under hot water after every use and make sure you don’t use the same one for too long.
DON’T scrub your teeth
While brushing is important, it is not brute force that cleans your teeth, but the combination of a decent toothpaste and a firm but sensitive brushing technique. Scrubbing will wear away at the enamel on your teeth and cause irreversible damage over time. The important thing to remember when brushing is to make sure every surface is covered from every possible angle, especially the back of your teeth. A soft bristled brush is preferable as the risk of damage will be further reduced.
DO see your dentist
No matter how much care you take when it comes to looking after your teeth, there is no way to know for sure that they are healthy without consulting your dentist for a check-up. There are many dental disorders capable of harming your teeth and leading to more serious problems but the symptoms are not always obvious. You should aim to see your dentist every six months to make sure everything is as it should be and if any problems are discovered, they can quickly help you solve them.
Smoking is bad for you in more or less every way and not even your teeth are safe from the harm it can do. In fact, your teeth and gums are highly vulnerable to cigarette smoke as they come into a lot of contact with it. Cigarettes contain all manner of nasty chemicals and as the smoke passes through your mouth, it will stain your teeth over time and irritate your gums, increasing the risk of gum disease. There is no way around this either and no amount of brushing will help so it’s better just to not smoke at all.
DO eat healthily
A healthy diet means a healthy body, which in turn includes a healthy mouth. Sugars and acids are very harmful to your teeth and consumption should be kept to a minimum. However, healthy eating isn’t just about how the food affects your teeth on the way in and there are many foods that carry additional benefits. For example, milk, cheese and yoghurt contain a lot of calcium, which is exactly what your teeth and bones need to stay strong. More acidic fruits, such as oranges are good for you and should be eaten, but it is important to look after your teeth appropriately afterwards. Drinking water will help rinse the acid away, as will chewing gum.
DON’T drink fizzy drinks
Most people enjoy fizzy drinks but they really should be enjoyed in moderation. The high sugar content is an obvious issue but the real culprit is the citric acid contained in them. This acid will weaken the enamel on your teeth and there is no escaping it. Sports drinks and diet drinks may be comparatively better for you but they are just as acidic as their sugary counterparts. If you absolutely must have a fizzy drink, make sure you have some water afterwards. Having said that, water should ideally be your number one drink anyway.
Sam Reynolds for Pittville Lawn Dental Practice
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