How clean are yours? Five steps to healthy teeth and gums

You’ve just had your breakfast – you’re still tired from last night’s Netflix marathon – you reach for the toothbrush and do as you’ve done every morning since you can remember.

Brushing our teeth is something we do without even thinking – and that’s the problem. How many of us actually think about how we’re brushing our teeth, if we’re doing it in the right areas and for the right amount of time? It’s not about perfection – we can’t be perfect all the time! – but being more aware about how to maintain healthy teeth and gums can save extensive dental treatment later in life.

So, what do we need to know, what are the essentials? If you do nothing else, here are five tips I try to stick to as part of my routine dental care:

1. Invest in an electric toothbrush: Electric toothbrushes with a rotating, oscillating head are effective at reducing plaque. They get to those hard-to-reach places easily and help to prevent over-brushing – which, if done repeatedly – can also cause gum recession. You should aim to be brushing for two minutes. 

2. Use fluoride toothpaste: Using fluoride-containing toothpaste strengthens the enamel and is one of the most effective ways of preventing tooth decay. Look for it in the ingredients on the back of the packaging, or you may find it’s stated clearly as part of the branding. Ideally, choose toothpastes containing between 1,350 and 1,500ppm fluoride. Many people are in the habit of giving their teeth a final rinse or brush with water when they’ve finished too – always avoid doing this as the water washes away the toothpaste properties we want to keep on the teeth.

3. Take to ‘TePe-ing’: After brushing my teeth, I always use varying sizes of ‘TePes’ or interdental brushes that allow you to clean all the way through the gaps in your teeth, where one tooth meets the other. No matter how well you brush, it’s impossible to access these areas with a toothbrush and remove food debris and plaque – which if left, can lead to gum disease and dental decay. Interdental brushes are sold in varying widths according to the size of your gaps, so you may need to alternate between sizes for different areas of the mouth. If you can push the brush all the way through – feeling a little resistance but without it bending the wire – then you probably have the right size for that area. Get into the habit of doing this morning and night after brushing. If you have overcrowding and struggle to find an interdental brush to fit, dental floss is a suitable alternative.

4. Refresh at noon: Whilst guidance suggests you should brush your teeth twice a day – typically morning and night – having a fluoride-containing mouthwash to hand during the day certainly won’t hurt. I tend to use this after lunch – it’s quick, easy and takes seconds to do. Remember, you shouldn’t use mouthwash just after brushing as it has the same result as water in diluting the protective efforts of the fluoride.

5. Don’t forget the dentist: Finally, keeping up with your dental and dental hygiene appointments is essential. Dentists and hygienists often identify potential issues before they become harder and more expensive to treat. Ideally, you should have three to six-monthly dental hygiene appointments and see the dentist every six months.

If you aren’t currently registered with a dentist and want a dental check-up, submit a booking request via my website for an appointment in Cheadle Hulme or Southport.