Taking Care of your Teeth
Brushing Your Teeth
Brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste will help keep your teeth and mouth healthy.
Brush your teeth in the morning before breakfast and last thing at night before you go to bed (and ideally at least an hour after your evening meal). Brushing your teeth straight after a meal can damage your teeth, especially if you’ve had fruit, fizzy drinks, wine or any other food that contains acid. This is because tooth enamel is softened by the acid and can be worn away by brushing. Waiting an hour gives your saliva chance to neutralise the acid.Avoid frequent intake of acidic food and drinks – keep them to meal times.
Plaque is a film of bacteria that coats the teeth. These bacteria feed on the sugars in our food and drink, and they produce acids that can destroy tooth enamel and cause decay.
Plaque forms if you don’t brush your teeth properly or look after your gums, which enables bacteria to multiply. Plaque contributes to gum disease, tooth decay and cavities.
The British Dental Health Foundation gives the following advice on how to brush your teeth:
1. Place the head of your toothbrush against your teeth, then tilt the bristle tips to a 45 degree angle against the gum line. Move the brush in small circular movements, several times, on all the surfaces of every tooth.
2. Brush the outer surfaces of each tooth, upper and lower, keeping the bristles angled against the gum line.
3. Use the same method on the inside surfaces of all your teeth.
4. Brush the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
5. To clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several small circular strokes with the toe (the front part) of the brush.
6. Brushing your tongue will freshen your breath and clean your mouth by removing bacteria.
Flossing isn’t just for dislodging food wedged between your teeth. Regular flossing may reduce gum disease and bad breath by removing the bacterial film (plaque) that forms along the gum line.
The British Dental Health Foundation gives the following advice on how to floss your teeth:
1. Take 30–45cm (12–18 inches) of floss and grasp it so that you have a couple of inches of floss taut between your hands.
2. Slip the floss between the teeth and into the area between your teeth and gums, as far as it will go.
3. Floss with eight to 10 strokes, up and down between each tooth, to dislodge food and plaque.
4. Floss at least once a day. The most important time to floss is before going to bed.
5. You can floss before or after brushing.
Bad Breath (Halitosis)
When breath goes bad, its known as halitosis. Detecting it on yourself isn’t easy because your senses have trouble picking up your own smells, often until it gets really bad. Short of asking a mate, try cupping your hands over your mouth, breathing out and then breathing in through the nose. A sour smell may indicate bad breath.
Bad breath can arise from a number of different causes. Which means there are a number of different solutions too:
1. Poor dental hygiene (tooth decay, gum disease, or just rotting bits of food trapped between your teeth)
Solution:A decent brushing/flossing routine, and regular visits to your dentist.
2. Poor diet
Solution:Cut down on junk food, sweets and fizzy drinks, and take on more fresh fruits and vegetables. Also drink plenty of water to keep your digestive system in good working order.
3. Niffy food (Curry, garlic, horseradish, crisps, chips, chocolate, coffee, red meat, raw onion and cabbage all leave their mark on your mouth)
Solution:There’s no need to cut this stuff from your diet, just exercise a little caution if you’re planning on a snog-fest later in the day.
Solution: One more reason for kicking the habit.
What if its still bad?
Mouthwashes can work. They contain zinc chloride (usually red in colour) and will sort out bad smells, but if you want to take on the bacteria too, then go for brands containing domiphen bromide and cetylpridnium chloride (often yellow or green). If your breath continues to be a problem after all this, consult your GP as it could be a symptom of a gastric condition.
Ulcers are sores that appear inside the mouth. They are usually red or yellow and can be very painful.
Most ulcers are ‘traumatic’ ulcers and are caused by damage such as accidentally biting the cheek or rigorous brushing of the teeth. In cases where there are multiple ulcers not incurred by any damage, aphthous stomatitis is the most common cause.
Minor ulcers are usually very small, and there can be several present in your mouth at any one time. There is no known cause for this, but it is not infectious and is not hereditary. Large ulcers, however, are greater in size and often take a lot longer to heal. Ulcers of this type should be evaluated by your dentist. It is very rare that you would encounter more than one ulcer of this size at any one time. There is also a variety in which up to one hundred tiny ulcers can be present in your mouth at any one time.
Viral and bacterial infections can cause mouth ulcers. In fact, mouth ulcers can be identified as a sign of underlying diseases or conditions. Mouth cancer often first appears an an ulcer which takes a long time to clear and has no identifiable cause for appearing. Any ulcer that is present in your mouth for three weeks or more should be alerted to your dentist.
The advice that dentists offer with regard to ulcers is that you should consult your dentist if:
The ulcer has been present for more than three weeks
You feel unwell
The ulcers continue to reappear after healing.