Establishing a good toothcare routine at home is crucial to keep teeth healthy throughout your life. And it's especially important when we've been unable to get to a dentist during lockdown...!
Taking care of your teeth is especially important during these times, when lockdown restrictions can mean that surgeries may be closed and seeing a dentist can become tricky.
What you do day to day is important for ongoing oral health, says dental hygienist and Oral-B ambassador Claire Berry. ‘It can keep bacteria low, and lower your risk of gum disease.’
And don’t forget your gums, says dentist Dr Nilesh Bhatt, from the British Dental Association. ‘Without healthy gums, you can’t have healthy teeth. And bad gums can lead to other health problems when it comes to dental care.’
Dental care: the basic must-dos when caring for your teeth
- Brush teeth and gums for two minutes twice a day.
- Use an electric toothbrush with an oscillating head. ‘Electric brushes provide superior plaque removal to regular manual toothbrushes,’ says Claire. ‘They are easier to use, as they do all the cleaning action for you.’
- Use a pea-sized blob of fluoride toothpaste. Look for stannous fluoride, says Claire. ‘It kills bacteria and studies show it’s the most effective ingredient to prevent bacteria from reaccumulating on the teeth after brushing.’
- Floss every day. ‘Brushing alone misses the contact points between teeth,’ says Claire.
And don’t forget… to change your toothbrush (or electric brush head) every three months. By then it may contain up to 10 million bacteria.
Dealing with dental disasters: what to do
Ease pain with paracetamol or ibuprofen. ‘If the pain is coming from a wisdom tooth, this tends to happen due to bacteria building up around the wisdom tooth that has not fully erupted yet,’ says Claire. ‘For this, you would need to give it a really good clean despite it being uncomfortable. A warm, salted mouthwash solution is also good for this sort of pain.
People tend to back off with the cleaning if their gums bleed, but they shouldn’t, says Claire. ‘You’re allowing more bacteria to build up around the gum line, which means you’re going to get more bleeding. By cleaning your gums even more with an electric toothbrush, you can remove the bacteria from this area. At first you might notice that it bleeds more, but after a few days this should subside. Flossing daily is also important to prevent bleeding gums.’
What’s an emergency?
Call your dentist or 111 for dental care if you can’t relieve your toothache with paracetamol or ibuprofen, it keeps you up at night, or you have facial swelling associated with a toothache – this can be relieved temporarily with a cold compress before you get treatment.
What to eat to take care of your teeth
What we eat and drink can affect the appearance and health of our teeth and gums.
- Restrict sugary foods and drinks. ‘Bacteria on the teeth eat the sugar,’ says Claire. ‘They then produce acid as a by-product. Over time, this acid dissolves the tooth surface, creating holes or cavities in the enamel.’
- Never brush your teeth immediately after eating or drinking citrus fruits, such as oranges. The citric acid in them softens tooth enamel, which can then be brushed off.
- Make sure you get enough vitamin C, which is vital for healthy gums and soft tissue. Rich sources include red and green peppers, blackcurrants, kiwis, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and potatoes.
- Eat oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel) once a week to boost your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. They’re linked to the improvement of gum health thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties. White fish contains some omega-3, but only in smaller amounts. Nuts and seeds are also good sources.
- And try to avoid: coffee, tea (particularly green tea), red wine, bolognese and curries. These are the top teeth stainers, so go easy on those.
3 other ways to look after your teeth
- Chew sugar-free gum for 10 minutes. It helps remove 100 million bacteria from the mouth – making it as effective as flossing, according to researchers from the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands. Don’t chew for any longer though, because after that the gum becomes less sticky and some of the bacteria is released back into the mouth.
- Drink smart. Use a reusable or paper straw when having a sugary drink. It sends the drink to the back of your mouth, reducing the risk of acid-attacking contact with your teeth. And make sure you drink plenty of water. Dehydration is bad for your mouth, and water helps neutralise plaque acids.
- Get out in the sun. ‘Vitamin D daily helps to support the absorption of calcium and phosphorous, keeping your teeth healthy,’ says Claire. Aim for 20 minutes of sunshine on unprotected skin, making sure you don’t burn. If you’re worried you’re not getting enough, consider a vitamin D supplement, as recommended by Public Health England.
5 helpful products for dental care
For deep cleaning: Oral-B Genius X, £169, Boots. It includes an app that tracks where you’re brushing and corrects your technique.
For teeth grinders: DenTek Night Guard, £25, Boots.
For at-home whitening: Smile Science Harley Street Professional Teeth Whitening Treatment, £40, Sainsbury’s.
For sensitive teeth: Perfect White Black Sensitive Toothpaste, £4.99, Superdrug. Enamel-protecting stain removal for sensitive teeth.
For hard-to-reach places: Curaprox Interdental Brush Starter Kit, £8, Boots.
Have you been looking after your teeth during lockdown?