A healthy mouth speaks volumes
Good oral health is as vital to our well-being as a healthy diet and regular exercise, say dental professionals, with growing evidence that gum disease is linked with a higher risk of serious illnesses like heart attacks and strokes.
A British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF) survey in 2007 found that one in three people brush their teeth just once a day or less, one in five can’t remember when they last changed their toothbrush, and more than one in three brush for less than a minute, instead of the recommended two minutes or longer.
The survey also revealed that 29 per cent of people suffer with bleeding gums – a sign not just of a poor oral healthcare routine, but one that may be associated with an increased risk of serious medical conditions such as heart disease and strokes.
According to the BDHF, "There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that people with gum disease are more at risk of heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and, in the case of pregnant women, giving birth to underweight babies."
Despite this evidence, 85 per cent of the people questioned for the survey were unaware of the link between the health of the mouth and the health of the body.
September is Oral Health Month
Oral Health Month, an annual campaign run jointly by Colgate and the British Dental Association, aims to raise awareness of the lifelong benefits of good oral hygiene practices. To highlight the link between a healthy lifestyle and good mouth health, this year Colgate has also teamed up with the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and will be donating 10p for every old toothbrush donated to raise money for the BHF’s nursing programme.
Dental hygienists will be at tooth brushing stations around the country throughout September giving demonstrations and guidance to people who want to improve their oral health routine. The campaign’s organisers stress that good oral hygiene practices can prevent problems like tooth decay, bad breath and gum disease, and the messages are simple:
- Brush your teeth twice a day using an appropriate fluoride toothpaste and paying particular attention to the areas where the teeth meet the gums.
- Replace your toothbrush every three months, as worn and splayed bristles are not as effective at cleaning. If the bristles are bent or flattened, you may actually cause damage to your gums.
- Avoiding sugary snacks between meals is a key component of a healthy lifestyle – eliminating sugar will benefit your teeth.
- Visit your dentist regularly.
A healthier diet for a healthier mouth
A poor diet that includes lots of sugary and acidic foods and drinks increases the likelihood of experiencing oral health problems, dental professionals explain. Sugary food and drinks cause tooth decay, while acidic drinks like fruit juice and squash cause erosion (loss of tooth enamel). Dentists recommend that you avoid acidic drinks wherever possible and opt for water or milk instead.
Dietitian Azmina Govindji offers the following tips to minimise damage to your teeth and gums at mealtimes and in between:
- If you consume sugary drinks, keep them to mealtimes only. If you have them in between meals on their own, the sugar can cause decay. Avoid sipping sugary drinks throughout the day – if you open a bottle of pop, juice or a smoothie, try to drink it in one sitting.
- Are you a snacker? If you are constantly grazing – say, seven or eight times a day – then you allow more opportunity for your teeth to become eroded. Choose sugar-free snacks like vegetable sticks or a handful of heart-healthy nuts in between meals.
- Going for a diet drink to reduce damage to your teeth? Yes, it's sugar free, but the acid in diet drinks can dissolve the enamel on your teeth. Have them only with a meal.
- You may think that brushing after every meal is a good thing, but think again. When you brush straight after food, you also brush away tiny bits of enamel. Wait at least an hour after you've eaten.
- If you produce more saliva, this helps to neutralise the acid you make in your mouth after you've eaten or drunk something. Chewing gum makes your mouth produce more saliva and can help prevent tooth decay - but go for sugar-free versions only.
Find out more about the dental plans available to you and your family; or if you’re an employer you might be interested in our corporate dental insurance. If you have a specific question you want answered, why not ask one of our experts?
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