Research shows that there is an association between oral health and overall health, and experts consider oral health problems to be a global health burden.
So, what are the best practices for keeping your teeth and gums healthy? We’re taught from childhood that brushing twice a day and regular visits to the dentist are important—but what else do you need to know about your teeth and how they relate to your overall health?
By far the best thing you can do for your teeth is to brush them twice a day (or more) after meals. However, brushing is most effective is people use the correct technique. When brushing your teeth, use small circular motions, taking care to brush the front, back and top of every tooth. This process takes between two and three minutes. Make sure you avoid sawing, back-and-forth motions.
Brushing too hard or using a hard-bristled toothbrush can damage tooth enamel and your gums, which can lead to tooth sensitivity, permanent damage to the protective enamel of your teeth and gum erosion. It’s best if you use a toothbrush that has soft bristles and change it roughly every three months.
While you can certainly achieve good brushing from a manual toothbrush, an electric toothbrush has many benefits that can greatly improve the quality of your brushing.
The bristles of electric toothbrushes vibrate or rotate to help you remove plaque build-up from your teeth and gums. The vibration allows for more micro-movements every time you move your toothbrush.
This method controls plaque and gingivitis more than manual toothbrushes do—studies show that after three months of use, plaque was reduced by 21 percent and gingivitis by 11 percent.
Electric toothbrushes can also be easier to use for people with issues that affect mobility, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis and developmental disabilities.
Flossing once a day is imperative for oral health. It can remove plaque and bacteria from between the teeth where a toothbrush is unable to reach and so can help to prevent bad breath.
The best way to floss, according to most dental health professionals, is to gently push the floss all the way down to the gumline before hugging the side of the tooth with up-and-down motions. It is important to avoid snapping the floss up and down between your teeth, which will cause pain and not remove plaque so effectively.
See a dentist
If you have generally good oral health and aren’t experiencing any pain or problems, the NHS recommends scheduling a check-up with your dentist once every 12 to 24 months. After examining your teeth, your dentist will speak to you about what’s best—the time to your next check-up could be as short as three months!
During a routine examination, a hygienist will clean your teeth and remove plaque and hardened tartar. The dentist will check for visual signs of cavities, gum disease, mouth cancer and other oral health issues. They may sometimes also use dental X-rays to check for cavities.
Dental health in London
But clearly, this advice isn’t being widely followed. A recent report shows that by the age of five, over a quarter of children in London are suffering from tooth decay. Owing to the state of the dental health of London’s children, Mayor Sadiq Khan and the London Assembly Health Committee have proposed some recommendations to promote good oral health for kids.
Some of the recommendations include:
• Making all schools in London sugar-free by 2022
• Supervised brushing in schools
• Ensuring that every child in London sees a dentist by age one
• Appointing a specialist in children’s dental health to the Child Obesity Task Force
About the initiative, Dr Onkar Sahota, Chair of the London Assembly Health Committee, said, “Schools are the centre of a child’s education and a commitment to sugar-freedom would be revolutionary. Every child in London could have a sugar-free start in life—the health benefits would be enormous.”
This feature was orignally published in the winter edition of Live to 100 with Dr Hilary Jones, which you can read here