Neglecting your teeth causes more than just a cosmetic damage

Failing to take care of your teeth causes more than cosmetic damage. It can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and even cardiovascular conditions.

Good dental health is more than simply brushing our teeth twice daily. It involves flossing, mouthwash and can even be affected by what we eat! According to a recent study by University College London, neglecting our oral hygiene not only puts us at risk of tooth decay and gum disease (gingivitis), but could even be possibly linked to cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and heart attack – putting a whole new spin on the humble toothbrush.

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The dangers of decay

Tooth decay (dental decay or dental caries) occurs when the acids in your mouth dissolve the outer layers of your teeth. It appears that most of us aren’t taking proper care of our teeth, as tooth decay is one of the most common health problems in the UK today, with an estimated 31 per cent of adults suffering from the condition.
Symptoms of tooth decay include toothache, pain on eating and drinking and visible discolouration of the teeth. A diet high in carbohydrates and sugars increases the likelihood of tooth decay, with the bacteria in plaque producing acid at the same time as it produces energy from these foodstuffs. Over time, this acid breaks down the surface of the tooth, and if left untreated, destroys the outside of the tooth and exposes the nerves inside – resulting in a painful toothache.
Tooth decay is much easier to treat when caught early on. However, if plaque is left to build up, it can result in much more serious complications such as gum disease or dental abscesses.
The good news is that tooth decay can be prevented through better dental care.

Taking care of your teeth

Fillings, crowns and root canal treatment are all used to treat the impact of tooth decay. However you can save yourself a painful trip to the dentist by following our top tips towards perfect oral hygiene.

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Get big on brushing

Most of us know that it is important to brush our teeth twice a day – once in the morning to remove plaque and bacteria that build up overnight and once at night before we go to sleep. This is because saliva, which keeps plaque off teeth, dries up overnight. You should brush for two minutes each time, working your way around each tooth. Hold your brush at a 45-degree angle and move in small circular movements several times. Don’t forget to brush your gums as well. If your gums start to bleed, this could be because they are slightly inflamed. Don’t let this put you off, if you stop brushing your gums due to bleeding, this can make them even worse.

A top toothbrush

You should aim to replace your toothbrush on a regular basis – around every two to three months – to ensure it remains effective in removing harmful plaque. A large number of dentists recommend electric toothbrushes for a superior, more effective clean. If you wish to upgrade to an electric toothbrush, one with a rotating, oscillation motion is best.

Don’t forget to floss

Around 90 per cent of dental problems arise from between the teeth, yet a lot of us don’t floss regularly. Floss before you brush in order to remove any plaque from these hard to reach areas. Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers in a V shape, and then slide gently across the area between the gum and the tooth. Repeat for every tooth, paying particular attention to problem areas such as wisdom teeth at the back of the mouth.

Wash your mouth out

Like brushing, mouthwash is most effective when used twice daily. Try to use it at different times to when you brush your teeth, as it washes away the protective film that toothpaste leaves on your teeth after brushing. A fluoride mouthwash is best, as this helps to prevent tooth decay. You should avoid eating and drinking for 30 minutes after using this kind of mouthwash. 

Cut out the carbs

Food and drink high in fermented carbohydrates are responsible for the acid that attacks the outer layers of your teeth. Reduce your risk of tooth decay by eating a diet low in chocolate, sweets, fizzy drinks and white bread. However there is no need to remove carbohydrates completely from your diet. The bacteria in plaque struggles to break unrefined carbohydrates such as brown bread, pasta, rice and potatoes into acid, making these types a much safer choice for your mouth.

Find out more about improving your lifestyle and health

SEE MORE: Tips for healthy teeth

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