Good oral hygiene is very important to help prevent tooth decay and gum disease. It involves cleaning your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, visiting the dentist and hygienist regularly, and limiting the amount of sugar in your diet.
Dental Hygiene Tips
Brush your teeth
Brushing is the most effective way to remove plaque. To get the most benefit from brushing your teeth:
- use a toothbrush with a small head and synthetic bristles
- use fluoride toothpaste to protect against decay
- start at one side of your mouth and move round to the other side, brushing all the tooth surfaces thoroughly
- pay particular attention to your gumline, angling the bristles into the crevice where your gums meet your teeth
- brush at least twice a day and for around two minutes to allow time to do it properly
- replace your toothbrush every two to three months, or sooner if the filaments look worn
Some people prefer to use an electric toothbrush. There is some evidence that certain types of electric toothbrush are more efficient at removing plaque than brushing by hand. However, the thoroughness of your cleaning is much more important than what type of brush you use.
Clean between your teeth
However, even thorough brushing and flossing may not remove every trace of plaque. This is because most people have irregularities in their teeth where plaque can build up and harden into tartar. This can only be removed by a dentist or hygienist using special tools in a process called scaling. Polishing using a rotating brush and abrasive paste can help to remove stains from your teeth.
Dental floss or inter-dental brushes can help to remove plaque and small bits of food from between your teeth and under your gumline these are areas that a toothbrush can’t reach. It’s important to use the correct technique, so ask for advice from your dentist or hygienist.
Fluoride mouthwashes can help to prevent tooth decay. Some antiseptic mouthwashes reduce the number of plaque bacteria on your teeth and help to prevent gum disease. If you use mouthwash to freshen your breath, talk to your dentist for advice as bad breath may be a sign of poor oral hygiene. Always read the information on the mouthwash box or bottle and if you have any questions, ask your dentist or hygienist for advice.
Chewing sugar-free gum after a meal stimulates the production of saliva, which helps to neutralise plaque acid. Some chewing gums contain a sugar-free sweetener called xylitol, which may help to reduce tooth decay. However, more research is needed to understand how this might work.
Control sugar in your diet
Eating sugary foods and drinks encourages tooth decay, but it’s how often you eat these sugars, rather than the amount, that’s important. Try not to eat or drink them between meals to give your teeth a chance to be remineralised by saliva. Limiting sugar between mealtimes is particularly important for children. It’s also good for your general health to reduce your sugar intake.
It’s also important not to eat acidic foods or drinks, such as fizzy drinks or citrus fruit juice, between meals as these also encourage tooth decay and erosion.
Alcohol and tobacco
Drinking alcohol and smoking or chewing tobacco can increase your risk of developing mouth cancer. Smoking also stains teeth and can increase your risk of gum disease and tooth loss. Alcoholic drinks, and the mixers used with them, often contain lots of sugar, and so increase the risk of tooth decay.