I often get asked, “Doctor, do I really need to brush my teeth twice a day? It’s such a hassle, and besides, who has the time anyway?” My usual response is, “You don’t really need to unless you really want to keep them!”
You see, looking after our teeth is something we’re all taught to do as kids, yet some of us seem to push it to the side. In fact, only half of all Australians actually brush their teeth twice a day! This kind of behaviour can result in some serious implications. Toothache, gum disease, tooth loss, enamel erosion and bad breath, just to name a few, are just some of the negative consequences poor oral hygiene can leave us with. It can also leave us in states that are more susceptible to diseases that can affect our whole body (a whole separate topic for next time).
But have no fear! We’re here to give you our top tips on the best ways to protect your teeth! Engaging in good oral hygiene not only improve your dental health, but also your overall health too!
To keep it simple, we’ve divided it up for you in a list of ‘Dos and Don’ts’.
So let’s start with the things that we can do to keep our teeth in the best condition possible. Proactive oral care is without a doubt the best way to keep your teeth healthy and protected. To make it easy for you, we’ve got all the best tips right here:
Brushing Your Teeth
The most important part of your daily oral hygiene is brushing your teeth. When you think of brushing your teeth, you probably know that you should do so twice a day and for at least two minutes at a time. If you’re really on the ball you’d also know that you should always floss as well. But it’s a lot easier said than done, and there’s a lot more to it as well.
The biggest mistake that you can make when brushing your teeth is equating power and speed with effectiveness. In fact, it’s the opposite. The best way to brush your teeth is gently. Brushing is especially important after you’ve eaten sticky foods, but if you’ve had something acidic, you should wait at least half an hour before brushing. This is because sticky foods are more likely to get stuck in the crevices of the mouth and should be removed as soon as possible. Acidic foods however soften the tooth enamel (the hard outer layer of the tooth that protects against tooth decay), and brushing immediately after would wear it down.
Changing your toothbrush regularly so that it’s not worn down is another key tip. We strongly recommend that you use toothbrushes with soft bristles. After meals, we know it’s not always possible to get to a toothbrush right away, so rinsing your mouth with water is always good to do to minimise the bits of food getting stuck in between your teeth. In Australia our tap water contains fluoride, which is also good for your teeth.
Flossing should definitely be a part of your daily oral hygiene routine. The reason we floss is to clean the parts of the mouth and teeth that our toothbrush can’t reach. Flossing can vastly improve your gum’s health as well, as it protects against gingivitis and gum disease. Carrying around some floss is much easier than carrying around a toothbrush, so it can be used on the go after eating to give your mouth a cleaner feel and look.
Eating Good Foods
The food we eat can have a direct impact on our oral health. Many know that certain foods can have an adverse effect on your teeth (we’ll get to them later), but other foods can work wonders. Three key things we need for strong healthy teeth are calcium, phosphorous, and vitamin D. Calcium is responsible for creating a strong jaw which holds all our teeth in place, and relies on phosphorous for maximum strength. The best source of calcium is dairy products including cheese, yoghurt and milk, while phosphorus comes from nuts, meat, poultry, eggs and fish. Vitamin D is necessary to aid with the absorption of calcium and phosphorous, and can lessen gum inflammation. It comes from some of the same sources as calcium and phosphorous.
Another good habit to get into is chewing gum. Chewing sugar-free gum creates more saliva in the mouth, which essentially reduces plaque acid and strengthens the tooth enamel.
Using Your Teeth When You Shouldn’t
While some behaviours we’ve already mentioned can improve your oral health, there are certainly some bad habits you should avoid. Our teeth are a key part of our body – especially for eating and talking. However some things we use our teeth for we probably shouldn’t. For example, we’ve all been in a situation where we are trying to open something and there are no scissors or a knife handy. Many of us have probably resorted to using our teeth to open it. This is not a good practice since it can crack or chip your tooth (especially on a bottle) or cut your gums, leaving you open to tooth decay later on. Even just holding things in your mouth is not a good habit. This too can wear down your teeth, and not to mention it can be a choking hazard!
This is also why chewing ice or other hard substances is not good for you as it can damage your enamel and even crack your teeth and dental crowns.
Eating Harmful Foods
Unsurprisingly, the food that we avoid also plays a key factor in our oral health. Sugar is the main culprit when it comes to tooth decay, as when sugar mixes with the plaque that is in your mouth it creates harmful acid. This acid can break down the enamel that protects your teeth. Once your enamel is gone, you are more prone to cavities. Enamel doesn’t grow back either, so once it’s gone, it’s gone forever!
Avoiding sugar is easier said than done. Some people may elect to avoid foods closely associated with being high in sugar – soft drinks, lollies and biscuits, just to name a few, but that’s not the only place sugar can be found. Fruits, especially citrus fruits, may also contain a very high sugar content. Furthermore food with starch (bread, potato based foods), can also have a high sugar content. This is because when starch is broken down by the saliva in the mouth it becomes sugar.
Cutting down on the sugar containing junk food makes a lot of sense – they are bad for us in a number of ways. But eliminating fruits and starches sounds crazy! The truth is, in order to have a healthy body and a healthy lifestyle, we need to have a well balanced diet. Fruits and starchy foods are a part of this, and so it would be unwise to eliminate them all together. With proper oral care, you can prevent some of the damage that sugar can do to your teeth.
Regular Dental Visits
Now that we’ve talked about the Do’s and Don’ts of oral health care, we have to talk about the dentist. The dentist is your best friend when it comes to your oral health. Prevention is always better than cure. For the average person, you should all be getting a checkup at the dentist every six months, unless you have any additional issues which require more frequent visits. The dentist will check inside your mouth to make sure that you are taking good care of your teeth and give them a good clean to reduce the buildup of tartar and plague. Dentist can also provide treatment such as sealants on teeth with higher grooves that will make your everyday oral care a little bit easier.
A good dentist should be able to detect issues inside your mouth early on, provide the best treatment options for you and be able to answer any questions you may have. At the end of the day, you need to find a dentist who makes you feel comfortable and someone you can trust.
Keeping your teeth healthy is something you should prioritise more. Healthy teeth translates into a healthy body and a healthy lifestyle. Checking in with your dentist regularly is always a good place to start. It may be hard to start forming good habits, but keep in mind our Dos and Don’ts and you’ll be well on the way to achieving the best oral health you can!