10 top tips for great dental health

One in four of us dreads a visit to the dentist, but good oral health begins with you. Here's 10 tips to keep your teeth and gums happy.

Being afraid of the dentist means different things to different people. Maybe it’s the thought that treatment will hurt, or that the sounds and smells bring back memories of bad experiences as a child.

The good news is that more and more dentists understand their patients’ fears. With a combination of kindness and gentleness they can do a lot to make dental treatment stress free.

Karen Coates, a dental adviser at the British Dental Health Foundation, says the organisation’s dental helpline receives many calls about fear and phobia.

Karen says: “People who are scared of the dentist often call us for help because they’re at the end of their tether. Their teeth don’t look nice any more or they’re in a lot of pain with toothache, and they want to make the first step to seeing a dentist and getting their teeth sorted out.

“Some people have such bad dental phobia that they haven’t seen a dentist for years. It’s common for us to hear from adults who haven’t been to the dentist since childhood.

Brush before breakfast – this is the ideal time as tooth decay is caused by the bacteria in our mouths using the food we eat to produce acid causing our teeth to decay.

Dental advances

If you haven’t seen a dentist for several years because of fear or anxiety, be reassured that you should find the experience more bearable nowadays.

“Modern dental surgeries are generally much friendlier environments, with flowers in the waiting room, art on the walls, a pleasant reception area and polite staff,” says Karen.

“It’s altogether a gentler experience. Of course, you’ll still have the smells and sounds of the dental surgery but these are less noticeable than they used to be with instruments hidden from sight and background music playing. Even drills aren’t as noisy as they used to be,” she adds.

Advances in technology have also improved dentistry. Treatment can now be completely painless. The dental wand (a computerised injection system that looks like a pen and delivers the anaesthetic very slowly so it is painless) is great for anyone with a needle phobia. A numbing gel can also be used to numb your gums before an injection so you don’t feel the needle.

For more information visit www.dentalhealth.org or call the British Dental Health Foundation on 01788 539780 (local rate call in the UK) for impartial advice on oral health issues.

10 top teeth tips to keep your mouth healthy

Good dental health begins with you. By following these simple tips, you can keep your mouth clean and healthy:

1. Brush before breakfast – this is the ideal time as tooth decay is caused by the bacteria in our mouths using the food we eat to produce acid causing our teeth to decay.

2. Go alcohol free – alcohol is the main ingredient in a lot of dental products on the market because of its high ability to kill bad bacteria but it also kills good bacteria in the mouth.

3. Two minutes, twice a day – use the timer on your phone to ensure you’re spending at least two minutes brushing your teeth twice a day. This gives you enough protection to eat four times throughout the day - breakfast, lunch, tea and one snack. If you eat or drink more than 4 times in a day, then it’s important to brush three times a day (don’t forget to brush your tongue!).

4. Sensitive gums – if you have sensitive gums it is recommended to use a rotating toothbrush.

5. Avoid eating for an hour before bed – this is so the saliva in your mouth has a chance to clear away food debris and neutralise acid.

6. A pea sized amount – is all the toothpaste you should use when brushing your teeth.

7. Don’t wet tooth bristles straight away – avoid wetting the bristles on your brush straight away to improve plaque removal.

8. Clean between your teeth every day using interdental brushes or dental floss. If you have just started flossing your gums may be sore and might bleed but if you get into the routine of flossing then after a week or so the bleeding should stop. If you find your gums still bleed, see a dentist.

9. Improving your technique – if you manually brush your teeth, angle the brush at 45 degrees to the gum line. The average brush head will cover two teeth, clean in a circular motion for around 5 seconds and then move forward one tooth at a time repeating the same circular cleaning action for five seconds.

10. Change your toothbrush regularly – at least every three months and don’t forget to visit your dentist as regularly as they recommend.