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Oral Health guide: How to have healthy teeth

From brushing rules to foods you should avoid, here's how to have a healthy smile

Image Credit: Pixabay

Daily Brushing

Dr Tareq Y Shabani, Consultant/General Dentist at King’s College Hospital London’s Jumeirah Medical Centre in Dubai breaks down what some of the top good oral health habits are:

  1. Having a good oral hygiene will help prevent plaque build-up on your teeth. Plaque is a film of bacteria that coats your teeth if you don’t brush them properly.
  2. Brush your teeth at least twice a day, for a minimum of two minutes each time.
  3. For most adults a small toothbrush head with medium or soft bristles is appropriate.
  4. Fluoride toothpaste helps prevent tooth decay.
  5. Use dental floss or an interdental brush to clean the gaps in between your teeth. Interdental cleaning (done with an interdental brush or floss) is as important as brushing your teeth, if not more. Flossing not only removes food wedged between your teeth, but also prevents gum disease and bad breath by removing plaque that forms along the gum line.
  6. Rinsing with mouth wash does not substitute brushing teeth or interdental cleaning. It can add value, as a breath freshener, if used after a snack. But most of the times, it is not essential and shouldn’t be used right after brushing your teeth, as it rinses away the fluoride left by the toothpaste.
  7. Get your teeth checked every six months, and if you have a history of diabetes, recurrent cavities or gum disease, then visit a dentist more frequently. Detecting problems early can make them easier to treat.
  8. Our mouth is rich in bacteria that is usually not harmful, however, they thrive on plaque, producing acids as a result. The acids in turn, remove minerals from your teeth, causing tiny openings or holes—the first stage of cavities.
  9. When we eat or drink sugary drinks, such as sodas, or food, some of the bacteria that breaks down the sugar, creates acid, which causes tooth decay, cavities, as well as gum disease. Therefore, when treating yourself to something sweet, remember to brush your teeth shortly afterwards and drink fluoridated water as it is the most tooth friendly drink.
  10. On the other hand, with acidic food or drinks, such as lemons, only brush your teeth one hour after having them. The acidity in certain foods or drinks can wear out the enamel layer on teeth, and thus make brushing right after it too rough on the teeth.
  11. Get to know your mouth and teeth’s health. It will be easier then to know if there is something unusual that develops or changes.
  12. Don’t forget about your gums too! These should be pink. If they bleed when lightly touching them or brushing them, you may have gingivitis

What not to eat

Dr Emma Caseley, General Dentist at King’s College Hospital London’s Jumeirah Medical Centre in Dubai, also sheds light on what is good or bad for one’s teeth:

  1. Smoking causes bad breath, stains your teeth, increase your risk of gum disease as well as many other serious health problems.
  2. Juices and fizzy drinks are very sugary, so if you’re going to have either make sure to have it with your meal.
  3. Lollipops and sweetened drinks in a formula bottle are particularly damaging as they bathe the teeth in sugar for long periods of time.
  4. Eat cheese! A study published in the May/June 2013 issue of General Dentistry, the journal of the American Academy of General Dentistry, found that eating cheese lowered their risk of tooth decay.
  5. Similarly, yogurt is also high in calcium and protein, which makes it a good pick for the strength and health of your gums. If you decide to add more yogurt to your diet, choose a plain variety with no added sugar.
  6. Celery and chopped carrots make a great snack. The chewing of such vegetables actually helps to keep the teeth clean.
  7. Studies have shown that tea is the best natural source of fluoride. Fluoride helps to keep your teeth strong.
  8. Vitamin C helps to keep the gums healthy, so make sure you are getting enough of it.
  9. Make sure to get your daily vitamin D intake, whether from staying outdoors or through supplements, as vitamin D helps absorb calcium, and prevent gum disease.

Start young!

As most people grow up having a fear of the dentist, Dr Emma recommends the following tips for parents to help their children embrace good oral health habits, as well as going to the dentist:

  1. Take your child to the dentist when their first milk teeth appear.
  2. Baby teeth need to be taken care of as well, even if children are going to lose them. This is because severe decay in baby teeth can cause abscesses that can harm your child's later, permanent teeth. If dental extractions are required for baby teeth, children are more likely to develop crooked or problematic teeth, as baby teeth help to create the right spacing for the permanent teeth.
  3. The number one reason for children to be admitted to hospital for a general anaesthetic in the UK is for tooth extractions – don't put yourself and your child through this experience.
  4. Build healthy habits when it comes to oral hygiene early on in your children’s life, so they are more likely going to grow up with the right habits.
  5. When going to the dentist, take your children with you, so they get used to knowing that it is as normal and as important as going to the doctor.
  6. Baby teeth have thinner and often less strong enamel, so have less protection against bacteria that metabolise sugar and cause tooth decay. Therefore, ensure your children have a healthy diet.
  7. Show your children how to clean their teeth and monitor how they do it. If they are five years old or younger, do it for them as they may not be yet fully dexterous.
  8. Look online for apps on your smartphone or home devices that will add some fun to the task. Some apps use music and a timer to make the experience pleasant.
  9. Use a reward chart system with checks or stickers to reinforce a positive message.
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