A guide to achieving better oral health at home
According to an investigation by the Oral Health Foundation and Colgate, the Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on our oral health over the last few years. The investigation reported that 55% of British adults feel they neglected their teeth during lockdown with around 15% admitting to not brushing their teeth as much as before the pandemic, and 19% stating they were not brushing their teeth twice a day. When coupled with all the unhealthy eating and drinking habits that have crept into our daily routine lately, it’s safe to say that things below the gumline are probably not looking as good as they should.
The mouth is full of bacteria, fungi and viruses, known as the oral microbiome and every single one of us has a unique microbiome. In fact, the CSI fans among you will know that our saliva can actually be used for identification purposes. Poor oral hygiene can alter the microbiome. If left unchecked, it can cause permanent damage such as tooth decay and bone loss through gum disease.
With all this in mind, here are some helpful steps that you can take to help prevent tooth decay and keep your teeth in tip-top condition.
Its best to use mouthwash at a separate time to brushing – your toothpaste has more benefits than mouthwash so it doesn’t make sense to wash it away straight after brushing. Instead, consider mouth washing after a snack or after lunch. Unless otherwise advised by your dentist, try to avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol as it can upset the pH and microbiome of your mouth.
Check for plaque
Toothpaste will do its job better if it’s on plaque rather than your teeth. A great way to make it visible to you is by chewing a disclosing tablet. The tablet contains a harmless vegetable dye that sticks to plaque so you can see where it is building up in your mouth. You can tailor your brushing accordingly.
What’s so bad about plaque? It contains bacteria which release acids every time we eat or drink something sugary. These acids attack enamel, leading to erosion and cavities. When plaque builds up, it hardens into tartar around your gum line, causing swelling – an early sign of gum disease.
Remember, every time you consume sugar, acids are released from the bacteria inside your mouth, and it can take around 30 minutes for saliva to neutralise the acid. Try to keep sugar consumption to mealtimes only (i.e. 3 to 4 acid attacks per day). It is important to understand sugar and the damage it causes to your teeth.
Brush twice daily
Simple but oh so effective. Brush twice a day – morning and night – for two minutes, preferably using a rechargeable electric toothbrush. We advise our patients to try and keep half of the brush on the tooth and half on the gum and then gently let the brush glide (avoid scrubbing). After brushing, spit the excess toothpaste out but don’t rinse – this way you are leaving some fluoride behind to protect the teeth from decay.
Clean between your teeth daily
Interdental brushes are great for removing plaque but, if the gap between your teeth is too tight, flossing is advised. If you can’t get on with either of those, then try an air or water flosser.
If you notice bleeding when cleaning, you might be tempted to stop…please don’t! Bleeding gums is a sign of gum disease and inflammation and if you persevere with flossing it should improve. However, if there is no improvement after a few weeks, chat it through with your hygienist or dentist.
Visit your dentist regularly
Prevention is better than cure and seeing your dentist regularly will likely reduce your chances of needing treatment. Routine dental visits for check-ups are so important, as are hygiene visits one or twice a year.
Poor oral health can lead to poor overall health and conditions such as gum disease can lead to some very nasty health issues if left untreated, such as a heart attack, or stroke. Recent research even suggests bacteria that cause gum disease are also associated with the development of alzheimer’s and dementia.