More than 50% of the adult population are unhappy with their teeth, yet 25% do not maintain the recommended twice-daily brush. Furthermore, visiting the dentist ranks as the number one phobia in the UK, beating a fear of heights to the top spot. Teeth matter, so help keep yours strong and healthy with a little wisdom and some practical know-how.
Be starch savvy
Tooth enamel is the toughest substance in the human body, and it is under attack around the clock. It is common knowledge that sugary snacks like chocolate and candy are not good for our teeth, but they are not our only enamel enemies. Starchy giants like white potatoes and bread also break down as sugar when digested. These staples stick around our mouth and create a happy haven for bacteria, which hits teeth with the full force of erosive acid. So don’t lapse on your regular brushing and flossing routine just because you’ve devoured a square meal and skipped dessert.
Make water work
A staggering 66% of the population have visible plaque on their teeth. Plaque hosts an alarming 300 species of bacteria that can cause dental cavities, so it’s important to keep it at bay with fluoride, a natural mineral that can reduce tooth decay by 40-60%. Dental products are rich in fluoride, but beyond brushing your ivories, guzzling water is a great way to top up your fluoride intake and protect your smile. Do your teeth a favour and have plenty of sips from the tap throughout the day and between bites at meal times.
Keep the juices flowing
Saliva contains calcium and phosphorus, both of which protect our teeth by aiding digestion and combating a build up of corrosive acid in our mouth. We produce an average 45,000 litres of the stuff in a lifetime, and it’s important not to inhibit its production. In real terms, this means keeping your alcohol intake moderate – drinking too much will dehydrate you and reduce your saliva levels. Chewing gum for 20 minutes after main meals will stimulate saliva production, but stick to sugar-free varieties, obviously.
Time your brush
Consuming acidic food and beverages makes tooth enamel vulnerable. Brushing your teeth too soon after feasting can cause irreparable damage by removing enamel particles while they are in a weakened state. As a rule of thumb, avoid cleaning your pearly whites at least one hour after a meal. Furthermore, don’t use mouthwash straight after brushing – it can strip your teeth of the fluoride from your toothpaste.
Beware of best-bite myths
Crunchy fruit and vegetables can serve as natural toothpicks and help remove plaque-causing bacteria, but choose which ones you munch on wisely. The idea that ‘an apple a day keeps the dentist away’ isn’t strictly untrue, but fruit has a high natural sugar content and can expose your teeth to high levels of acid. Celery, raw carrots and even popcorn are much better options. Similarly, be aware that while fruits such as oranges, lemons and grapefruits are super sources of vitamin C for healthy gums, they also contain potent levels of enamel-damaging acid too – so enjoy them in moderation.