Sixty years ago, lack of widespread dental care, poverty and a poor diet meant that many people expected to start losing their teeth in their twenties. Today, the number of middle-aged people who need false teeth has dropped from 32 per cent to 6 per cent over the past 25 years, while the days of routine fillings have all but disappeared as fewer children suffer tooth decay. Fizzy drinks, which contain very high percentages of sugar and acid, are our teeth’s current biggest adversary, and citrus fruit juices are now considered to be even more damaging than sugar when left on the teeth. If you drink either, try and rinse with water directly afterwards.
Fluoride toothpaste has been a major factor in improving dental health in the UK, as have the minute quantities of fluoride which have been (in some cases controversially) added to tap water in some parts of the UK.
Did you know that if you are stressed your teeth can actually decay faster? Stress causes acid to enter your mouth which, like citrus fruit juice, is damaging to your teeth.
Breathe through your nose if you can, as breathing through the mouth causes the protective layer of saliva to dry out, putting teeth and gums under greater risk of attack from bacteria.
Eat foods that are high in vitamins C and D, and calcium – such as dark greens, sea vegetables and high quality dairy produce – to help strengthen the teeth.
Recent research has shown that oolong and green teas can be excellent plaque-reducing aids. They contain polyphenols, which inhibit the formation of the bacteria that lead to cavities.
Gargle every day with a few mouthfuls of warm salt water to keep germs and infections at bay (a generous pinch of in half a glass of warm water will suffice).
Chewing a handful of fresh parsley is a tried and tested emergency method of removing the smell of garlic and other strong-Jlw smelling foods, but don’t rely on this.
Using an electric toothbrush is the kindest thing you can do to your teeth, because it cleans your teeth much more effectively than you could ever do with a toothbrush.
If you do use a normal brush, choose one that is soft and use it in small circles. Never rub side to side, as this can wear down teeth through abrasion. Do remember to clean both inside and outside the rows of teeth, and clean the front teeth as well as the molars at the very back.
Professional cleaning of your teeth, by a dentist or hygienist, involves removing the hard deposits above (supragingival) and below (subgingival) the gum line. These deposits lead to the development of the bacterial colonies that cause gum disease and can lead to decay and loose teeth. Problems with your gums begin below the gum line, so you need to pay attention to this important part of your anatomy.
If your gums bleed when brushed, this is a sign they are infected. Visit your dentist for advice and concentrate on brushing around the gum margins using an angled brush.
Flossing is now recommended as the only way to get plaque and food debris out from between your teeth effectively. A lot of people find it difficult or unappealing, but its importance cannot be overstated. Choose waxed floss or tape, which is easier to use. You can also buy floss which is impregnated with tea tree oil, which has a naturally disinfectant quality.
Your gums are often overlooked, but they are vital to your dental health. They help hold teeth in place and they help stop bacteria from destroying the hidden parts of your teeth. Massaging them helps to keep circulation flowing.
Gum Massage Paste
Mix 2 teaspoon rock salt, half a teaspoon black pepper, half a teaspoon turmeric and 1 teaspoon olive oil. Massage the gums in tiny circles to soothe, disinfect and tighten them. Alternatively, massage them with a single fresh strawberry, which helps clean the teeth and has astringent qualities to tone the gums.
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