Maintaining healthy teeth and gums is important. By adopting good habits, you can prevent issues such as tooth decay (cavities) and gum disease.
It’s never too late to start caring for and protecting your teeth. Here are five tips that show you how.
Flossing each day is an important part of oral hygiene. Flossing removes the plaque from between your teeth which helps to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, as well as bad breath.
- Wind about 45cm of floss around your middle fingers and rest it across your thumbs and index fingers.
- Always guide the floss between the teeth gently using a gentle side-to-side motion. This avoids traumatising the gums and ensures the sides of both teeth are cleaned.
- To clean the “neck” of the tooth, which is the point at which it meets the gums, curl the floss and insert it gently under the gum.
- Inter-dental brushes (IDB’s) are an alternative to flossing and can also be used to clean the gap between your teeth. IDB’s come in a range of sizes and can be useful if you struggle to manoeuvre dental floss through the gap
While it’s impossible to remove all the bacteria that cause tooth decay, it’s possible to manage them so your teeth stay healthy. Practising and maintaining a good standard of oral hygiene reduces the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
- Brush teeth twice a day using a pea sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
- Brush teeth for at least 2 minutes. Spend 30 seconds on each quarter of your mouth.
- Gently brush teeth and along the gum line using a gentle circular motion on the outside and inside surfaces of the teeth. Use a light back-and-forth motion on the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
- Brush teeth using a toothbrush with a small head and soft bristles.
- Replace your toothbrush or toothbrush head every three months, or when the bristles begin to splay.
- Use an antibacterial mouthwash to help fight plaque and bacteria. Talk to your dentist first to see if mouthwash is right for you
Maintaining a healthy diet
One of the main causes of tooth decay is added sugar in our diet. When we eat a sugary snack, the bacteria in our mouth converts the sugar to acids which cling to and damage our teeth.
Reduce the sugar in your diet to reduce your risk of tooth decay.
- Avoid too many sweet foods and sugary drinks, particularly those that stay on the teeth.
- Always choose water to drink. Limit sugary and acidic drinks such as soft drinks (including sugar-free/diet and regular), sports drinks, cordials, and fruit juices.
- Check food labels for sugar content. Sugar can be hidden in many foods, including in highly processed foods which don’t taste sweet.
- Follow the Australian Dietary Guidelines and eat a wide variety of nutritious foods from the five food groups every day: vegetables, fruit, grains, lean meats (or alternatives) and dairy (or alternatives).
- Check if any of your medications contain sugar. If they do, see if there’s a sugar free alternative. Do the same if your medication causes dry mouth as this also increases the risk of decay.
- Chew sugar-free gum which can help to produce saliva to help wash the sugar out of the mouth.
- Quitting smoking is also important for tooth health
Fluoride can help to strengthen teeth and protect against plaque which attacks the teeth causing decay. Drinking fluoridated water and brushing with a fluoridated toothpaste are the easiest ways to help maintain healthy teeth.
- After brushing, spit out toothpaste – do not swallow it, and do not rinse with water. This allows the fluoride more time to strengthen your teeth.
- Use a suitable fluoride toothpaste, gel or mouthwash.
- If you live in an area without fluoride in your drinking water, ask your dentist for advice on options to increase fluoride to prevent decay.
- When drinking bottled water, check the label for fluoride content.
- If you use a water filter, select one that doesn’t remove fluoride
Regular check ups
The early signs of tooth decay aren’t always easy to spot, so regular dental check ups are important. A dentist can spot and treat any issues early, which can prevent further decay or damage. Having no pain doesn’t always mean that your teeth and mouth are healthy.
Always see your oral health professional if you have:
- mouth pain
- bleeding gums
- swelling of the face
- a damaged or knocked out tooth (or teeth)
- mouth sores that don’t heal after a couple of weeks
- For regular care