Woman brushing her teeth

8 Feb 2024

Healthy Teeth and Gums

Looking After your Teeth

The shape and size of your teeth are distinct depending on their position within your mouth, which enables them to perform a variety of functions. Teeth are instrumental in defining the structure of our face, help us chew and digest food, and allow us to talk and pronounce different sounds clearly.

Preventing Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is the destruction of tooth tissue caused by acids made by bacteria in dental plaque, a sticky film that constantly forms on the teeth. 

If you eat or drink sugary foods frequently throughout the day, you have more ‘acid attacks’, which can eventually lead to cavities (holes) in the teeth and infection. In worst cases, if tooth decay is not treated, the nerve of the tooth can become infected and die, causing an abscess, which may then need root canal treatment or even for the tooth to be removed. 

How to Keep your Teeth Clean

You should brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day (last thing before you go to bed and on 1 other occasion) for about 2 minutes to help prevent plaque build-up. Try to make sure you clean every surface of all your teeth.

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in water in varying amounts which can help prevent tooth decay. A range of toothpastes are available containing different levels of fluoride, but those containing 1,350 to 1,500ppm fluoride are the most effective for adults. Additionally, don't use mouthwash at the same time as brushing; use it at an alternative time because it washes away the fluoride in the toothpaste.

It doesn't matter whether you use an electric or manual toothbrush, they're both equally good, but some people find it easier to clean their teeth thoroughly with an electric toothbrush.

You can also use dental floss, interdental brushes or a water flosser to help keep your teeth clean. They can help reduce gum disease and bad breath by removing plaque that forms along the gum line.

How Diet can Impact your Teeth

Many people think that it is a high level of sugar in your diet that causes decay, but it is actually how often you have sugar in your diet, not the amount, that causes problems.

It takes up to an hour for your mouth to cancel out the acid caused by eating and drinking sugar. During this time your teeth are under attack from the acid. It is therefore important to limit the number of attacks by having sugary foods and drinks just at mealtimes. Chewing sugar-free gum and drinking water after meals or snacks can also help to cancel out the acid more quickly.


Looking After your Gums

Gum disease is caused by a build-up of plaque on the teeth. If you do not remove plaque from your teeth by brushing and cleaning in between them regularly, it builds up and irritates your gums.

You may have gum disease if your gums bleed when you brush your teeth, floss or eat hard foods such as apples, and if your gums are red and sore. It can lead to bad breath and a bad taste in the mouth, your gums shrinking and your teeth becoming loose or falling out.

Gum disease should always be checked by a dentist. In the early stages, your dentist will:

  • Give you advice about keeping your teeth clean, such as using interdental brushes or water flossers;
  • Advise you to stop smoking, if you smoke;
  • Advise you to get your teeth cleaned by a hygienist.

But if your gum disease is serious, you may need:

  • To have deep cleaning under the gums;
  • Antibiotics;
  • To have some teeth removed;
  • Gum surgery.

The Importance of Regular Dental Check-ups

Your own everyday habits are crucial to your overall oral health, but even the most dutiful brushers and flossers need to see a dentist regularly.

Detecting problems early can mean they're easier to treat. If problems are not treated, they may lead to damage that's harder, or even impossible, to repair.

These routine visits allow dentists to thoroughly examine teeth and gums for signs of tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health problems that might otherwise go unnoticed and worsen over time.