‘Look after your smile – so much of the work done by dentists is preventable!’ says Dr Uchenna Okoye – the official dentist on Channel 4’s ’10 Years Younger’ and a sustaining member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentists. Here are her top tips for keeping your teeth healthy.
1. Prevention is best
Brush twice a day, and visit the dentist often. Uchenna recommends regular six monthly visits to the dentist and three monthly visits to the hygienist. Your dentist may prescribe additional aids such as a splint to wear at night if you grind your teeth.
2. Switch to power brushing
Use a pea size amount of toothpaste and invest in an electric toothbrush. ‘I use the analogy of using the washing machine to clean clothes versus washing by hand. Both will clean your clothes but the machine does it so much better and faster.’
3. The "F" Word
Floss! Floss! Floss! We know it’s important but, according to the Oral Health Foundation, 1 in 3 of us have never done it! Flossing is the best way to remove plaque and debris from between your teeth and keep your mouth clean. It is also one of the best ways of preventing bad breath. (If you don't believe this, just smell the floss after it has been used.) If you are a beginner, start with dental tape as it is often easier to use than floss.
4. It’s all in the genes
Most people in the UK lose their teeth because of gum disease. If your parents or grandparents wear dentures or have gum problems, you need to work harder. Susceptibility to gum disease is in your genes.
5. Fluoride is your friend
Fluoride makes teeth more resistant to attack by plaque. You must apply it daily on the tooth surface to have maximum effect. This is easily done if you use fluoride toothpaste and rinse daily with a fluoride mouthwash. This must be done daily to maintain the protective effect. FYI Children’s toothpastes have less fluoride because it can discolour developing adult teeth and cause gut disturbances if the toothpaste is ingested (which is what children generally do!)
6. When not to brush!
Do not brush your mouth after vomiting or after having any acidic or sweet food and drinks otherwise you can damage the enamel. Wait for 20 minutes, and rinse your mouth with water before brushing.
7. Look after your gums too
Gum disease can often lead to loss of teeth and bleeding gums can be a sign of active gum problems such as gingivitis. Research shows that gum disease increases the risk of heart disease.
8. Don’t whine about wine
Wine also is an enamel-stripper. Chewing a piece of sugar-free gum or eating some cheese as dessert will neutralise the acid from the alcohol. Brushing your teeth about an hour before drinking wine will remove the plaque that attracts the wine stains.
9. Quit cigarettes
Not only does smoking stain your teeth, it can mask problems with your gums too. Gums normally react to bacteria by going a red colour and bleeding, but smoking reduces the blood flow to the gums making it harder to tell when you have gum inflammation (gingivitis) or gum disease (periodontitis) which can lead to loss of teeth.
10. Flash your pearly whites
Healthy looking teeth can make you look younger and boost your confidence. If you have discoloured teeth, then you may consider whitening them. Always see the advice of a dentist rather than a ‘spa’ for proper whitening. Avoid buying treatments online.
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