Teeth help us to chew and digest food. They help us to talk, and to pronounce different sounds clearly. Most importantly, teeth help to give our face its shape. A healthy smile can be a great asset; and because this is so important, it makes sense to give your teeth the best care possible.
How do I keep my teeth and gums healthy?
It is easy to get your mouth clean and healthy, and keep it that way. A simple routine can help prevent most dental problems:
- brushing your teeth last thing at night and at least one other time during the day, with a fluoride toothpaste
- spit out after brushing and rinse
- cleaning between the teeth with ‘inter-dental’ brushes or floss at least once a day, rather than poke your teeth and gums with foreign objects.
- good eating habits – having sugary foods and drinks less often.
- Regular dental check-ups.
- It is also advisable to change your toothbrush regularly especially after an illness.
Although most people brush regularly, many don’t clean between their teeth and some people don’t have regular dental check-ups. A few small changes in your daily routine can make a big difference in the long term. Your dental team can remove any build-up on your teeth and treat any gum disease that has already appeared. But daily dental care is up to you, and the main weapons are the toothbrush, toothpaste and inter-dental cleaning (cleaning between your teeth).
What sort of toothpaste should I use?
As well as regular family toothpastes, there are many specialized toothpastes. These include tartar control for people who get tartar build-up, and a choice of toothpastes for people with sensitive teeth. ‘Total care’ toothpastes include ingredients to help fight gum disease, freshen breath and reduce plaque build-up. ‘Whitening’ toothpastes are good at removing staining to help restore the natural color of your teeth, but are not strong enough to change the natural shade of the teeth.
Some children’s toothpastes only have about half the fluoride that adult toothpastes have. They only give limited protection for the teeth. If your children are under 7 you should supervise them when they brush their teeth. Encourage them not to swallow the toothpaste and to just spit, not rinse, after brushing.
How should I brush?
Brushing removes plaque and bits of food from the inner, outer and biting surfaces of your teeth.
Plaque is a thin, sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on your teeth.
Here is one way to remove plaque – discuss with your dental team which is the best for you:
- Place the head of your toothbrush against your teeth, then tilt the bristle tips to a 45-degree angle against your gum line. Move the brush in small circular movements, several times, on all the surfaces of every tooth.
- Brush the outer surface of each tooth, upper and lower, keeping the bristles angled against your gum line.
- Do this again, but on the inside surfaces of all your teeth.
- To clean the inside surfaces of your front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several small, circular strokes with the front part of the brush.
- Brush the biting surfaces of your teeth.
- Brush your tongue to help freshen your breath and clean your mouth by removing bacteria.
How often should I brush my teeth?
Be sure to brush thoroughly with a fluoride toothpaste last thing at night and at least one other time during the day. If you regularly keep getting discomfort or bleeding after brushing you should see your dentist.
How much toothpaste should I use?
You do not need to cover the head of your brush in toothpaste. Children under three should use a smear, and children over three, a pea-sized blob of toothpaste.
- Always remember that a good dental health begins with you. To have a clean and healthy mouth you need to use the correct dental-care products. Ask your dental team to tell you what choices there are and to give their recommendations.
Written By: Ugonna Ukoh
Oral Health Foundation