We are open Monday to Friday: 8am - 5pm

4 Ways to Keep Your Smile for Life

It wasn't too long ago that losing teeth was considered a normal part of getting older. With modern dentistry and good daily habits, more people are now keeping their natural teeth into old age, but many still don't give their teeth and gums the care they deserve.

Keeping your smile for life is the theme of Dental Health Week 2021, the Australian Dental Association's annual campaign to improve awareness of good oral hygiene for all ages. If you want to win the fight against tooth decay and gum disease, following the ADA's 4 key messages is a good start.

1. Brush your teeth twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste

  • Brush twice a day for at least 2 minutes
  • Choose a soft-bristled toothbrush with a small head
  • Use toothpaste containing fluoride
  • Brush gently to avoid damaging your teeth and gums
  • Change your toothbrush every 3 months

2. Clean between your teeth once a day

  • Clean in-between your teeth using dental floss or other interdental cleaners
  • Start flossing children's teeth when they have two teeth that touch together
  • Talk to your dentist for advice about flossing techniques and whether floss or interdental brushes are best for you

3. Follow a balanced diet and cut down on sugar

  • Limit your added sugar intake to less than 6 teaspoons (24 grams) per day
  • Check the Nutrition Information Panel on food and drink labels for sugar content
  • Choose tap water rather than sugar-based or acidic drinks (low pH)
  • Swap sugary snacks for tooth-friendly alternatives such as cheese, nuts and vegetables
  • Avoid snacking and grazing that exposes your teeth to more acids

4. Visit a dentist for regular check-ups and preventive care

  • Have a check-up and clean at least once per year
  • Your dentist will let you know if you should attend more regularly
  • Your dentist will check for tooth decay, gum disease and perform an oral cancer screening if you're at risk
  • A hygienist will clean and scale your teeth, apply fluoride and give you advice about improving your oral hygiene
  • Your dentist may also recommend preventive treatment to help lower the risks for you or your child

To find out more about Dental Health Week and how to get involved, visit dentalhealthweek.com.au. If you want more advice about how to care for your teeth and gums and lower your oral health risks, read more dental care tips below.

How to brush your teeth

For many of us, brushing our teeth is something we learn as children and don't give much thought to as adults. Unfortunately, that can mean that bad habits never get corrected unless your dentist gives you advice about how to improve your brushing routine.

When to brush

Brushing twice a day helps to reduce the build up of plaque from food and drink you consume during the day and during the night when less saliva is produced to clean your mouth. Your dentist may recommend more frequent brushing if you need to improve your oral health.

Don't brush your teeth too soon after having food or drinks, as these may leave acids on your teeth that can soften the enamel and make it more easily damaged by brushing. Rinse your mouth with water instead and wait at least 30 minutes before brushing.

Brushing technique

Brushing in a back and forth motion could mean your teeth aren't getting cleaned properly, while brushing too roughly or pressing too hard could even damage your teeth. For the best results from toothbrushing:

  • Use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste
  • Tilt the toothbrush head at a 45 degree angle relative to the gum line
  • Brush the front, back and chewing surfaces of each tooth in a circling motion
  • Brush for at least 2 minutes, spending the same time on each tooth
  • Spit out toothpaste but don't rinse it off your teeth, as this helps to protect them for longer
  • Gently brush your tongue from back to front to remove bacteria and help freshen your breath

Manual vs electric toothbrush

One common question people ask their dentist is whether they should use an electric toothbrush. There is some evidence that using a powered toothbrush can remove more plaque, but this can depend on the individual.

Some people can benefit from going electric, particularly those who find it hard to use a standard toothbrush, such as young children and people with medical conditions that limit their mobility. An electric toothbrush takes care of some of the movement for you, and some models include lights and sounds that can make brushing more appealing to kids.

How to floss

Only 1 in 4 Australian adults clean between their teeth at least once daily, according to an ADA consumer survey. Floss can reach the areas your toothbrush can't, and regular flossing helps to remove plaque and trapped food, lowering your oral health risks and freshening your breath.

When to floss

Flossing should be done once a day, preferably before you brush your teeth in the morning. Flossing should take at least 2 minutes to be done properly, but it may take longer, especially if you have braces or misaligned teeth and need to take more care.

Flossing technique

Flossing may feel uncomfortable if you don't do it often, but your mouth should get used to it with regular flossing, or your dentist might recommend an alternative. For the best results using traditional floss:

  • Pull off around 45cm of floss and wrap it around the middle fingers of both hands
  • Hold one end of the floss between your thumbs and index fingers
  • Slide the floss between two teeth and move up and down, cleaning in a gentle sideways motion
  • When you reach the gum, tuck the floss gently under the gumline to clean the root of the tooth
  • Clean each tooth in turn and dispose of the floss after use

Alternatives to floss

If you don't like the feel of floss, or your teeth have tight gaps that are hard to insert floss between, your dentist can discuss other options to clean between your teeth. These could include floss threaders, interdental brushes or electric flossers using water jets.

Don't use a toothpick or other sharp objects to pick your teeth clean, as these could chip or scratch the tooth.

Healthy food and drink

The fight against plaque can get a lot easier when you cut down on sugar and replace it with food and drink that are beneficial for your teeth.

How to cut down on sugar

47% of Australian adults consume too much sugar, according to the ADA. This is based on the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation that the average adult should limit their added sugar intake to 24 grams or 6 teaspoons of sugar per day.

With some soft drinks containing as much as 9 teaspoons per can, and many processed foods and drinks containing added sugar, reducing your sugar intake involves paying close attention to what's going into your shopping trolley.

  • Check nutrition labels on packaging to compare sugar content
  • Check the ingredients list for sugar under a variety of names, including glucose, sucrose and corn syrup
  • The higher a sugar is listed, the more prominent it is
  • Avoid sugary snacks such as lollies, cakes and biscuits
  • Avoid soft drinks, sports drinks and processed fruit juices and cordials
  • Cut down on sugar in home recipes

Healthy sugar swaps

A tooth-friendly diet doesn't just mean reducing sugar, but choosing replacements that actually help your teeth.

  • Calcium-rich foods such as milk, cheese, yoghurt and tofu help to protect and remineralise teeth
  • Phosphorus also helps to protect teeth and is found in eggs, fish, lean meat, nuts and beans
  • Many fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins that help to support healthy gums
  • Water is the best drink for teeth, as it rinses and hydrates the mouth and helps to protect teeth against plaque if your tap water contains fluoride

Regular check-ups

How often do you visit the dentist? It's recommended that most people have a check-up and clean at least once a year, or more often if your dentist thinks you could benefit. According to ADA figures, only 27% of Australian adults have regular check-ups and 68% usually visit the dentist when there's already a problem.

Not keeping up with your scheduled appointments increases the risk of developing tooth decay, gum disease and other oral health problems, as your dentist won't be able to monitor the signs as closely. Your dental visit may include:

  • Comprehensive oral health assessment to check your teeth, gums and mouth
  • X-rays to give your dentist a closer look at your teeth and jaws
  • Professional cleaning and scaling to polish your teeth and remove plaque
  • Application of fluoride to help protect teeth against plaque
  • Advice and demonstrations on how to improve your daily oral care
  • Preventive treatments such as fissure sealants and mouthguards if your dentist thinks you or your child could benefit from extra protection
  • Discussing corrective treatments such as a filling or root canal therapy if your dentist finds a problem

See a dentist in Sydney CBD

Is it time for your dental check-up, or you do you want to know more about caring for your teeth and gums? Call our dentists at Sydney CBD Dental on (02) 9232 3900 for advice to book an appointment at our George Street dental clinic at a time that's good for you.

References

Australian Dental Association. Dental Health Week 2021 [Online] 2021 [Accessed July 2021] Available from: dentalhealthweek.com.au

Healthdirect. Teeth cleaning [Online] 2020 [Accessed July 2021] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/teeth-cleaning

Healthdirect. How to cut down on sugar [Online] 2020 [Accessed July 2021] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/cutting-down-on-sugars