Preventing tooth decay may seem like an impossible task, but it is often preventable if you take careful steps to look after your teeth. You can do this by making sure your teeth and gums remain as healthy as possible. Always remember that your teeth and gums are alive and need the right foods to nourish them and the right care and attention if you want them to last you a lifetime.
Here are some of the most important steps you can take to look after the long-term health of your teeth and gums:
- Stop smoking. Tobacco smoke can stain your teeth and can interfere with saliva production, which helps to keep your teeth clean
- Reduce your intake of alcohol. Alcoholic drinks can contribute to the erosion of tooth enamel
- Cut out sugar and sugar containing food and drink
- Cut down on starchy foods that turn to sugar, such as bread, cereals and other grains
- Try not to eat between meals or within an hour of going to bed
- Some medications can contain sugar. Look for sugar-free alternatives where possible
- Brush your teeth properly with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day, using floss to get between your teeth where a toothbrush cannot reach
- See your dentist or GP if you have a persistently dry mouth
- Visit your dentist regularly for a check-up
Eating for dental health
We all know that sugar is bad for your teeth, but by establishing good eating habits and avoiding sugar-laden food and drinks from an early age can not only help your child avoid tooth decay, but will also improve their general health too.
Regular visits to a family dentist from an early age will also encourage your child to take more care of their teeth and help them to understand the importance of regular brushing at home. Your family dentist can show you and your child how to clean their teeth properly. Young children should use a toothpaste especially designed for milk teeth and brush using a toothbrush with a very small head that allows cleaning behind the back teeth where food particles can easily become trapped.
You should encourage your child to brush their teeth twice per day – once after breakfast and once before bedtime. Getting into a regular brushing routine at an early age can improve the chances of your child carrying this on into adulthood.
Why are food choices important?
We have bacteria in our mouths that coat the teeth with a film. This film is called dental plaque and can build up on the surface of the teeth. When we eat or drink anything that is high in carbohydrates, especially sugary drinks such as fruit juice or cola, the bacteria contained in plaque will feed on these sugars and produce an acid as a by-product. It is this acid that eats away at the surface of your tooth enamel. Eventually the plaque acid will dissolve your tooth enamel to form a hole called a cavity. Once the plaque bacteria reaches the softer dentine layer within your tooth, then decay can speed up. If the bacteria is allowed to penetrate the tooth pulp at the centre of the tooth, it can expose the nerve and cause your teeth to become infected and very painful.
You can reduce the chances of tooth decay, infections and abscesses occurring through sensible food and drink choices as well as careful, regular tooth brushing twice per day.
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