Dental hygiene should be top priority for everyone. Get your teeth into these dentist-approved tips for lifelong dental health.
By Dr Sahil Patel
In terms of teeth, this refers to the wearing down of the edges and general untidiness that seems to affect teeth in middle age. To avoid it, consider wearing a retainer every night indefinitely.
A retainer is a thin plastic shield that hugs the teeth and is custom-made to your teeth. Owing to its rigidity, it not only stops your teeth moving, but also prevents the effects of nighttime grinding. The primary benefit is that your teeth will not drift and move, something that occurs in everyone, albeit very slowly and contributes to poor dental aesthetics later in life. A retainer halts this in its process. Secondly, the less contact your teeth have outside of normal chewing, the less wear and tear you can expect.
Whitening is the typical ‘dentist’ answer, and although we are biased, it’s absolutely true that the most natural and effective whitening systems are bleach or hydrogen peroxide based. As long as you can bear the temporary sensitivity, you can maintain white teeth for life. The only catch is that you must retain your enamel, which is the white hard shell around each tooth.
Sometimes called holes, rot, caries, decay, or gob rot. All these terms refer to the same thing, the breakdown of dental hard tissue by the action of sugar and bacteria. How to avoid it? There’s no clearcut answer but several action points can be utilized for cavity prevention:
- Limit your sugary intake to 3-4 exposures per 24 hours
- After a sugary food/drink, rinse, or drink plain water to dilute the sugar
- Use a fluoride-based toothpaste, with at least 1000ppm concentration, twice daily
- See a dentist at regular intervals to screen for decay and optimize oral health
- Request ‘fissure sealants’ and ‘fluoride varnish’ to reduce your risk further
- Get your teeth straightened to reduce risk
- If soft teeth run in your family, be extra vigilant with all the above
Often neglected and poorly understood, bacteria can also destroy gum tissue, making teeth wobbly and eventually lost forever! We must be extra cautious of this, because whilst reactive dental treatments are great, but they will never be as good as a natural tooth. Preserving what we have is paramount, and the key points to adhere to are:
- Brush teeth properly with a soft bristled toothbrush twice per day, including brushing teeth before bed
- Angle your toothbrush towards the gum for optimum dental hygiene
- Use an electric circular toothbrush
- If you have a manual toothbrush, ask your dentist for tips on technique – this includes cleaning your tongue!
- Use an interdental brush of the correct sizing – once per day and seek advice with your dentist
- See a dental hygienist regularly, but not too much!
Dentine hypersensitivity has been researched into oblivion in recent years, and it seems we still do not fully understand exactly why we all have varying experiences with sensitivity. To remedy this exasperating problem, try implementing the following advice:
- Avoid extreme temperatures, remember our teeth are not really designed for ice cream and boiling coffees
- Sensitive toothpastes – choose one and stick to it for several weeks to see if it is effective. They all have different modes of action, so you may need to try a few to find your go-to
- CPPACP – This is a compound that is marketed as tooth mousse and is an excellent desensitizer – use it within your retainer for a couple of hours or overnight for maximum benefit
6- Types of toothpaste
There are broadly four types of toothpaste:
- Sensitive (also fluoridated)
It’s recommended to use only the top two, either fluoridated or sensitive toothpastes to maintain good teeth. These are protective and not too abrasive like the whitening or smoker’s toothpastes. Avoid non-fluoridated toothpastes at all costs. There is only one active ingredients in toothpastes – that’s fluoride.
Toothpaste tabs follow the same principles as above, but they are delivered in a different form.
Consider that if you are eating something hard or tough, try cutting it into smaller pieces first. Your back teeth are much better designed for heavy loading than the front teeth. Apples and fruit we typically bite into with our front teeth, however, contain acidity and the frequency we eat these foods can cause acid erosion.
Drink carbonated and fruit juices with a straw – the idea being that the drink contacts your teeth less so than via a glass or cup. Alcoholic drinks can be both sugary and fizzy – so consume in moderation and use a straw where available.
Thumb suckers and pen biters, listen up! Some of the most avoidable damage that occurs to teeth is from using your teeth as a third hand and/or as a tool. Teeth are not designed to cut sticky tape and they should not be chewing on anything other than food. Habit breaking techniques are available through dentists and although it might be difficult to stop, it will help your teeth stay intact over a lifetime.
Contact sports include football, hockey, rugby, BJJ, karate, Krav Maga and many others. Be sure to have a custom sports guard made that you can wear on your upper set of teeth only. This cushions the force of your lower jaw impacting your upper, increasing the chance you will save your teeth. The damage can be catastrophic in sports accidents, and the best advice is to never let the risk of your teeth stop you playing sports – but go into it protected with a sports guard. Remember sports guards are part of your oral care, just as a toothbrush is at home.
These are made from varying compositions, but it is usually a thermoformed acrylic in 3-4mm thickness.
10- Be aware of fads
Every so often, someone will cast doubt into whether we should be using fluoride, or silver fillings or even flossing. Stay true to tried-and-tested methods that promote good dental health. It is not a subject that needs reinventing every decade, so when the next influencer or health guru encourages a radically different approach, think twice!
Healthy teeth can be maintained with the principles discussed alongside some expert assistance from your dentist. Usually, a dentist can accelerate your progression to healthier teeth/gums, but the first steps lie with you in looking after your teeth day-to-day.