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There are so many benefits to having a healthy mouth, and it’s easy to take care of your oral health by following these simple steps.
From improving your self-confidence to avoiding health problems later in later in life, the benefits of maintaining good oral hygiene can improve your life in so many ways.
A healthy smile can transform your appearance and reduces your chance of dental issues such as ulcers, gum disease, tooth decay and abscesses. The 20th March marks World Oral Health Day1, when people all over the world celebrate the importance of oral health.
What is good oral hygiene?
Maintaining good oral hygiene is not just about your teeth. It’s about making sure your whole mouth is healthy. As a general rule, if your mouth looks and smells healthy then it probably is! You can check whether your mouth is healthy by going through this checklist:
- Are your teeth clean and clear of debris, plaque and stains?
- Are you free from toothache?
- Are your gums their normal colour and free from pain and bleeding when you brush your teeth or floss?
If your gums do hurt or bleed during brushing or flossing, or if bad breath is a persistent problem, then you should arrange an appointment to see your dentist. These can be warning signs of an underlying problem such as gum disease. In most cases, your dentist will be able to treat the issue. However, some conditions and diseases require more specialist treatment such as oral or maxillofacial surgery.
Tips for maintaining good oral hygiene
Good oral hygiene is central to your overall wellbeing. Luckily, taking good care of your mouth is very easy. With a combination of daily care and regular check-ups at the dentist, you can keep your smile in top condition.
Clean your teeth
Keep your teeth clean by brushing them twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. This removes food debris and plaque which builds up on your teeth when you eat and drink. You should brush your teeth for at least two minutes at a time, making sure you reach every surface of your teeth. It doesn’t matter whether you use a manual or an electric toothbrush, as long as you clean each tooth thoroughly2.
The best time to brush is last thing at night just before you go to bed, and one other time during the day. Try not to clean your teeth within an hour of eating or drinking, because the enamel is softer at these times and you could damage it. Rinsing your mouth with fluoride mouthwash can help to prevent tooth decay, but don't use it straight after brushing your teeth as this can wash away the concentrated fluoride in the toothpaste left on your teeth3.
Floss between teeth
Once a day you should clean between your teeth with floss or interdental brushes to remove any food debris or plaque. If plaque builds up between your teeth it can irritate your gums and cause inflammation. It’s important to floss to reduce your risk of gum disease. However, flossing incorrectly can also cause damage to your gums so you should follow your dentist’s advice about how to do it correctly4.
Eat a healthy diet
Eating well is best for your mouth and good for your overall health. Sticking to food and drinks that are low in sugar helps to prevent tooth decay.
Be careful of ‘healthy’ options such as fruit juices and smoothies which actually contain lots of sugar and can damage your teeth. A diet rich in vitamins and minerals can also help prevent gum disease5.
It’s good to limit your consumption of sugary food and drinks to mealtimes and avoid snacking, limiting the time your teeth are exposed sugar.
Finishing meals with a cube of cheese is a great way reduce the acidity in your mouth, which can damage your teeth. You can also protect your teeth and gums between meals by chewing sugar-free gum containing xylitol5.
Drinking too much alcohol and smoking are very bad for your oral health and are two of the biggest risk factors for mouth cancer. In fact, people who smoke and drink heavily are up to 38 times more likely to develop the disease than people who don’t drink or smoke. Alcohol can also erode the hard enamel that protects your teeth, and smoking can stain the teeth and increase the risk of gum disease5.
Go for regular check-ups
See your dentist regularly and don’t put off going for check-ups. Your dentist can advise you on how best to take care of your mouth. Detecting any possible problems early can mean they’re easier to treat. Your dentist will also check your mouth for signs of mouth cancer, which is more treatable if it’s caught early.
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