Oral health advice for adults

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Toothbrushing

Toothbrushing

It is recommended that you brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes, spitting the toothpaste but not rinsing as you want the fluoride in the toothpaste to stay in contact with the teeth for as long as possible.

To brush your teeth, tilt the brush at a 45° angle against the gumline and sweep or roll the brush away from the gumline.

Gently brush the outside, inside and chewing surface of each tooth using short back-and-forth strokes.

Gently brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen breath.

Toothbrushes

Toothbrushes

There are lots of different types of toothbrushes available, some people favouring electric toothbrushes over manual and vice versa.

It is usually recommended that adults use a toothbrush with a small to medium-sized head with soft to medium multi-tufted bristles.

It is recommended that we change our toothbrushes every three months or when the bristles start to splay out.

Flossing and interdental brushes

Interdental cleaning

Why is it important to introduce interdental cleaning?

It is recommended that you try and use floss or some other form of interdental cleaning once a day.

Our toothbrush is very good at cleaning the outer, inner and biting surfaces of the teeth but unfortunately it is unable to clean in between the teeth effectively.  Floss, tape, interdental brushes and sticks help achieve this.

Inefficient removal of plaque can cause our gums to become painful, swollen, inflamed and bleed easily to touch. Bleeding gums are not normal – it’s a sign that the body is trying to fight the bacteria in the plaque. Healthy gums are pale pink, firm and have a stippled appearance, a bit like the outside of an orange.  Bleeding gums is the early sign of gum disease and is called gingivitis.  Gingivitis is reversible through good toothbrushing and regular interdental cleaning.  If left, gingivitis can develop to periodontitis, which is the destruction of the supporting structures that hold our teeth in our jawbone. Advanced periodontitis can lead to the loss of teeth.

Other contributing factors to gum disease include smoking, autoimmune diseases like diabetes, and it sometimes can be hereditary.

What is plaque?

What is plaque?

Plaque is made up of bacteria and is a sticky white film that continuously forms on the teeth.

The plaque bacteria feed on the sugars that we have in our diet and squirt out an acid as a waste product that softens the enamel of our teeth.

Toothpaste

Toothpaste

There are lots of different types and makes of toothpaste available. It is recommended that you choose a toothpaste that contains fluoride containing no less than 1450 ppmf (parts per million of fluoride).  All toothpaste should contain fluoride unless it specifically states it does not.

What is fluoride?

Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral found in drinking water and many foods.

Mouthwashes

Mouthwashes

There are different types of mouthwashes for specific reasons:

  • Mouthwashes to help with sensitive teeth.
  • Mouthwashes to help with gum problems.
  • Mouthwashes that contain fluoride which help fight the acids that are produced by the plaque.

When choosing a mouthwash, it is important that you choose the correct one that is suitable for your needs.

An alcohol-free mouthwash is recommended as it is kinder to the tissues of the mouth.

Take care to follow the instructions, as some mouthwashes must be used in a specific way. For example, mouthwashes that contain chlorhexidine must be used at a different time to toothbrushing, as an ingredient in toothpaste will stop the active action of the chlorhexidine from working properly.

In general if you are going to use a mouthwash use it at a different time to toothbrushing unless the directions state differently.

Tooth decay

Tooth decay

Tooth decay is the destruction of tooth tissue and is caused by the frequency of sugar in our diets and the inefficient removal of plaque.

How sugar causes tooth decay

How could the frequency of sugar in our diets cause tooth decay?

Whenever we eat or drink anything that contains sugar, the plaque bacteria that live on the surfaces of our teeth will digest the sugar from the food and squirt out an acid as a waste product.  The acid causes the enamel of the teeth to go through a stage of demineralisation (softening of the enamel). Each acid attack lasts twenty minutes. After twenty minutes our saliva fights the acids by neutralising them and the enamel is remineralised. The next time we have something to eat or drink containing sugar the whole process starts again.

Our teeth are very good at repairing themselves and can withstand five acid attacks a day e.g. breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks.  Unfortunately, the more frequently we have sugar in our diets the more often the teeth come under attack from the plaque acids. The teeth are unable to remineralise and a hole will start to develop in the tooth. This is tooth decay.

Reduce the risk of tooth decay

How to reduce the risk of tooth decay

  • Keep sugar to meal times only.
  • Avoid the over-consumption of fizzy drinks – not only do they contain sugar, they also contain high levels of phosphoric and citric acids which can lead to erosion of the enamel.
  • Soft drinks also contain sugar and if not sugar then sweeteners, which can have an acidic effect on the teeth.
  • Choose a healthier option as a snack e.g. vegetable sticks, or fruit in its whole form (i.e. not in a juice, smoothie or dried) as it is kinder to our teeth.

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