Brushing my teeth (3)
You should brush your teeth twice a day.
Your toothbrush should have soft bristles. If the bristles are too hard, they will scratch your gums and cause them to bleed.
The head of the toothbrush should be small enough to reach all the areas of your mouth, especially at the back. Therefore, the toothbrush head should not be too large.
You should ideally either brush your teeth just before eating, or wait at least an hour after a meal before brushing. This is in order to prevent tooth erosion.
How does tooth erosion work?
Many foods contain acids, especially fizzy drinks (including fizzy water) and fruit juice. When you eat or drink these foods, your teeth are exposed to this acid which then slightly softens the tooth enamel. Therefore, it’s best not to brush immediately after eating since the tooth enamel will be the softest at this time. Rather wait an hour before brushing.
Flossing my teeth (1)
Flossing is the most common way of cleaning between your teeth in order to remove plaque.
It involves using a piece of dental floss which looks like cotton thread. You break off about 30-40cm of floss and wind the ends around a finger from each hand. Then grab the floss between the thumbs and first finger to obtain a tight 3-4 cm section which you can pull between teeth. Gently scrape the floss against the sides of each tooth from the gum outwards. Use a fresh piece of floss each time.
When you first begin to floss, your gums may bleed a little. This is normal and should stop after a few days. If your gums continue to bleed, then you should see a dentist since regular bleeding may indicate gum disease.
Looking after my teeth (4)
One of the main causes of tooth decay is eating and drinking food which has lots of acid. Sugars and sugary foods in the mouth are the main foods that bacteria thrive on to make acid which can lead to tooth enamel erosion. So how can you prevent this from happening?
Tips to prevent tooth decay
- Limit the amount of sugary foods and drinks that you have. In particular, don’t snack on sugary foods.
- Try to reduce the amount of acid in contact with your teeth. So, limit fizzy drinks (including fizzy water) and fruit juices as these tend to be acidic. Perhaps just limit yourself to one fizzy or fruit juice drink a day. Otherwise, choose drinks that are much less acidic, such as still water, and milk, tea, or coffee (without sugar).
- If you are going to have fizzy drinks and fruit juices, drink them quickly. Don’t swish them around your mouth or hold them in your mouth for any period of time.
- Brush your teeth at least an hour after eating or drinking anything – especially acidic foods and drinks. This is because the acid in the food and drink softens the tooth enamel. Brushing your teeth when the enamel has been softened can cause the enamel to erode.
- On the same note, do not brush your teeth within an hour of vomiting (as stomach acid will be part of the vomit).
- Many people also use an antiseptic mouthwash each day to help prevent gum disease. In particular, for those who are unable to use a toothbrush, regular rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash will help to clean the teeth.
- Many people also clean their tongue after cleaning their teeth. You can do this with a toothbrush. You can also buy a special plastic tongue scraper from pharmacies.
- If you smoke, please try stopping smoking. Smoking is a major risk factor for developing gum disease.
- If children need medicines, wherever possible use sugar-free medicines.
- Some people chew sugar-free gum after each meal. Chewing gum increases the flow of saliva. Saliva helps to flush the mouth to help clear any debris and acid remaining from the meal.
Tooth decay (or caries) is what happens when holes form in parts of the enamel of the teeth.
What causes tooth decay?
Tooth decay is mainly caused by a build-up of plaque. The bacteria in the plaque react with sugars and starches in food to form acids. The acids are kept next to the teeth by the sticky plaque and these dissolve the tooth enamel.
What happens if I have tooth decay?
If you have tooth decay you may need fillings, crowns or inlays.
Tooth erosion is the gradual erosion of tooth enamel by the action of acid on the teeth. It is a common problem.
Over time, tooth erosion can cause thinned enamel, and eventually can expose the softer dentine underneath the enamel. Dentine is sensitive so erosion can lead to your teeth being more sensitive to hot, cold or sweet foods and drinks.
How does tooth erosion differ from tooth decay?
Tooth erosion affects the entire surface of the tooth, while tooth decay is the damage caused by bacteria working on specific parts of the tooth.
Gum disease (or periodontal disease) refers to an infection or inflammation of the tissues that surround the teeth.
Gum disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults. It is also a main cause of bad breath (halitosis). However, gum disease is often treatable.
What causes gum disease?
Most cases of gum disease are plaque-related. Plaque contains many different types of bacteria and a build-up of some types of bacteria is associated with developing gum disease.
What types of gum disease are there?
Depending on the severity, gum disease is generally divided into two types:
- Gingivitis: inflammation of the gums. There are various types. However, most cases of gingivitis are caused by plaque.
- Periodontitis: This occurs if gingivitis becomes worse and progresses to involve the tissue that joins the teeth to the gums (the periodontal membrane).