Dental Health Spa owner Christina Chatfield gets us into shape with a ‘workout’ for our mouths.
The health of your mouth is often seen as a separate issue from that of general health but by optimising our dental health we can make a significant impact on our well-being.
There are more than 700 different types of bacteria that live in the human mouth (both good and bad). At any one time, you may have up to 10 billion bacteria in your mouth, which is about two billion more than you will find on the average toilet seat!
There is growing evidence to suggest that inflammation in your mouth from gum disease is very closely linked with other inflammatory conditions in the body.
Mechanical removal of bacteria is the most important aspect of your oral care routine, remove the bacteria that are responsible for both decay and gum disease.
Therefore a good oral hygiene regimen can mean more than just a perfect smile:
1) Brush your teeth when you first get out of bed and before you get back in at night
Saliva (that sweeps away food particles and prevents plaque) dries up at night – so it’s best to brush the teeth before you go to bed. While you snooze, bacteria multiply and feed on the carbohydrate (sugars) in the foods we eat and turn it into acids, which cause decay. Brushing is down to technique, whether you use power or manual. My recommendation is to use a power toothbrush for two minutes twice a day.
2) Interdental cleaning
Clean in between your teeth using little interdental brushes or floss. Your hygienist or dentist can advise you on size – one size does not fit all. People often miss this part because they struggle to factor it into a routine, so they over compensate by brushing harder or more often. It’s a bit like having a car and cleaning it over and over on the outside n– it will not clean the boot but might damage the outside. The bacteria that hide in between your teeth lie there undisturbed and become more offensive in terms of smell and the damage to both the teeth and gums.
Use toothpaste that contains fluoride, which helps to harden enamel and reduces your risk of decay. If you choose to use toothpaste without fluoride you need to balance that against the risk of decay plus reduce all sugars in your diet and have the best possible mechanical cleaning.
4) Mouth rinsing
Follow your oral hygiene routine by rinsing with a mouthwash, not only makes your mouth taste great – it also helps to eliminate any debris left after your cleaning regimen. A mouthwash that contains fluoride will also help protect the teeth from decay.
5) Clean your tongue
We all suffer with bad breath from time to time and in about 85% of cases, the bad odour comes from the mouth. The bacteria that sit on the surface of the tongue can be a major contributor to bad breath. Scraping with a tongue scraper or simply brushing with a standard toothbrush will greatly reduce the bacteria that cause bad breath.
6) Change your toothbrush or the head of your electric toothbrush at least every two to three months. Otherwise, you're just transferring bacteria tin your mouth. Plus a splayed out brush is ineffective and is likely to just buff the surface of the tooth it touches. Also, replace your brush or head after a bout of illness.
7) Diet Limit sugary food to meal times – don’t forget bacteria in dental plaque change sugars into acids so try not to snack throughout the day! Cut down on sugary and acidic drinks, too! Food acids soften tooth material and dissolve the minerals in tooth enamel. Having a healthier diet and drinking plenty water can improve gum health, too.
8) Prevent mouth cancer
I was shocked when I heard the stats about mouth cancer. More people die from oral cancer than testicular and cervical cancer combined but are very much more aware of these other cancers. The reason why more people die is primarily due to late detection. HPV is overtaking smoking and drinking as risk factors, which puts the majority of the population at risk – it is no longer an ‘old person’ disease. As a mother myself, I would like boys and girls to receive the same level of prevention (currently only girls get the HPV jab). Persistent mouth ulcers, unexplained lumps in the mouth and neck, and looseness of teeth can all be symptoms of mouth cancer. If these symptoms don’t heal within three weeks – especially if you are a smoker or drinker – a trip to the GP is recommended.
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This article has been updated on the 27th November 2020.