It’s a twice-a-day habit that many won’t give much thought.
But dentists have now revealed that the most common mistakes people make when brushing their teeth.
From forgetting a key practice alongside brushing, to cleaning teeth at the wrong time of the day, Dr Sameer Patel and Dr Safa Al-Naher explain the ways to keep your pearly whites.
Dr Patel, founder and clinical director at Elleven Dental in central London, said: ‘If we don’t look after our oral health it can have serious implications on our health further down the line.
‘Aside from chronically bad breath (halitosis), neglecting to look after your teeth and gums can lead to issues including gum disease, teeth abscesses, decay, infections and even tooth loss.’
Founder and Clinical Director of Elleven Dental Dr Sameer Patel and Dr Safa have revealed their top mistakes to avoid to help keep your smile white and healthy
Around half of adults over 30 show signs of gum disease but dental experts advise the top mistakes to avoid in your daily cleaning routine
Forgetting to floss
Everyone knows that they are supposed to brush their teeth twice a day.
But only one in three Brits are thought to floss daily.
This is despite the NHS urging everyone aged 12 and over to do so, as brushing alone only cleans the 40 per cent of the tooth surface that a brush can’t reach.
The practice not only helps keep the gums healthy and teeth white, as evidence also suggests it has other major health benefits.
Dr Patel said: ‘Increasingly, studies show the importance of flossing for neurological and cardiac health as well.
‘Flossing removes plaque from below the gumline, which can erode tooth enamel and cause tartar, as well as reduce the risk of gingivitis, cavities and the likelihood of your gums becoming inflamed, sore and red.
‘Be sure to floss daily for optimum teeth and gum health, as well as for your overall wellbeing.’
British Heart Foundation (BHF) funded research found that those with moderate to severe gum disease had a 69 per cent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Dental experts strongly advise using interdental brushes or power flossers as part of people’s daily cleaning routines
Gum disease forms gaps inbetween teeth, which allows bacteria to enter the bloodstream and cause inflammation.
This is a natural response to infection but when it goes on for too long it could damage your blood vessels, including those in your heart, and could lead to or worsen coronary heart disease, according to BHF.
One review of 14 studies, by a team at the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing, concluded those who had lost more teeth were 1.48-times more likely to suffer cognitive impairment and 1.28-times more at risk of dementia.
Dr Patel’s top tips
- Brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and flossing
- Not smoking
- Avoid biting or chewing your nails – chew sugar-free gum instead
- Limiting intake of staining and acidic foods such as curries and chocolate
- Limiting intake of staining and acidic drinks like fruit juices, smoothies, red wine, coffee and energy drinks. When you do drink these types of beverages, rinse your mouth out with water afterwards.
Researchers therefore concluded that flossing teeth may boost oral hygiene and lower the risk of tooth loss.
People who have gum disease and tooth loss are also at higher risk of heart attacks and strokes than those with good oral health.
Experts believe this may be down to the bacteria that infects the gums damaging the blood vessels, leading to tiny blood clots, or that inflammation in the gums triggers vascular damage throughout the body.
Dr Safa, founder and principle dentist at Serene in west London, said: ‘It is really important to do something to clean between your teeth because brushing alone just cleans about 40 per cent of your tooth structure.
‘The rest of it is found in between teeth. So you need to be removing plaque either with floss or interdental brushes or a power flosser.’
The NHS advises children to start flossing after the age of 12.
Not brushing before bedtime
Before bed is the most important time to brush teeth, experts say.
But a quarter of Brits forget to do so, surveys suggest.
Health chiefs urge people to brush their teeth with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day for about two minutes to keep teeth and the mouth healthy.
But the pre-bed brush is thought to be most important.
This is because it is overnight that plaque — soft food particles and bacteria — can harden on the teeth, at which point it can’t be removed with normal brushing. Instead, a dentist or hygienist will need to remove this calcified plaque with special tools.
Additionally, levels of saliva — which has natural anti-bacterial properties — fall during sleep, which leaves them more likely to be attacked by bacteria if food particles remain on them, Dr Safa explained.
Dr Safa’s ‘cheap and cheerful’ hack for health gums
if you’d like to pay attention to your gums the best mouthwash for your gums is actually saltwater, which is cheap and cheerful and readily available.
So half a cup of warm water with a teaspoon of salt is enough to keep everything nice and healthy.
It kills the bad bacteria, but it keeps the good bacteria there
She said: ‘We recommend brushing twice a day. If you are only going to brush once a day, make sure it’s at night before bed at the end of the day.’
Waiting until after breakfast to brush teeth
Many wait until after eating their first meal of the day before brushing their teeth.
But brushing after eating may actually do more harm than good.
Dr Patel said: ‘The inside of our mouths accumulate lots of bacteria overnight.’
Eating breakfast and drinking coffee or fruit juice effectively feeds these bacteria sugar, which forms an acid and can attack the tooth’s enamel.
Even worse, brushing straight after eating can scrape off the softened enamel, encouraging this acid to penetrate the teeth, causing even more damage.
He added: ‘So it’s important to brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste first thing in the morning, before you eat.
‘Your toothpaste will also protect your teeth’s enamel from the acid in your food; especially if you like fruit juices or smoothies in the morning.’
Using teeth as tools
Biting off clothes tags, opening plastic wrappers and removing bottle lids are ways that some people may repurpose their teeth.
However, dentists warn this may lead to chipped teeth.
Dr Patel said: ‘I’ve seen so many patients with damaged teeth and gums due to years of treating their mouth like a Swiss army knife.
‘People use their teeth for all manner of tasks.
‘This is never a good idea, as it puts you at risk of chipping your teeth, cutting your gums and more.’
How often should you brush your teeth?
- Brush your teeth for at least two minutes in the morning before breakfast and last thing at night before you go to bed. Brush with fluoride toothpaste and spend 30 seconds on each quarter of your mouth.
- Never brush your teeth straight after a meal as it can damage your teeth, especially if you’ve had fruit, soft drinks, wine or any other food that contains acid. Wait an hour after a meal before brushing.
- For most adults, a toothbrush with a small head and a compact, angled arrangement of long and short, round-end bristles is fine. Medium or soft bristles are best for most people.
- A simple tip is to visualise a tooth as having five surfaces. Three of these – the top, the front and the back – all need brushing. Flossing takes care of the two hidden surfaces in between the teeth.
Source: Health Direct