Your mouth is important and plays an important role in many of our bodies natural functions, including breathing and eating. Because of this, damage to the mouth can have a detrimental impact on two of our bodies most vital functions.
It is important to look after your mouth by brushing twice daily for at least 2 minutes, especially after eating sugary foods.
Use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste to brush your teeth. Using more toothpaste than recommended can actually damage your teeth's enamel.
There are a range of different types of toothpastes which offer various benefits on top of cleaning your teeth. Sensodyne, for example, is formulated for people with sensitive teeth.
The most important ingredient of toothpaste is fluoride. Flouride helps to strengthen the enamel of teeth - the outermost protective layer of your teeth.
While most toothpastes are available over the counter from pharmacies and supermarkets, some toothpastes, such as Colgate Duraphat, are only available on prescription due to their high flouride content.
The type of toothpaste you should use can be discussed with your dentist.
You should use a proper brushing technique. Brush vertically - up and down from gum to gum. Make sure to brush all of your teeth evenly, even the backs of them (the part you don't show when you smile).
It is recommended that you should change your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months. As you use your toothbrush, the bristles split and fray which reduces their effectiveness at cleaning away plaque.
Electric toothbrushes can make it easier to clean your teeth, though you don't need one if you use the correct technique.
Many electric toothbrushes offer the ability to change the brush at the end, making the process of switching brushes simpler and more economical than with a manual toothbrush.
Flossing is recommended from the age of 12 onwards. It helps to remove plaque from between your teeth.
Dental floss is usually available as a mint flavoured thread which is either wound like a bobbin of thread or affixed to a plastic arm, similar to a violin bow.
There are also flossing devices which shoot a narrow jet of water at high pressure to clean between your teeth.
Flossing is often performed to remove plaque from the spaces between your teeth, which you can't reach with a regular toothbrush.
Rinsing your mouth with mouthwash can help to remove food you couldn't get with your toothbrush and freshen your breath.
There are a number of different mouthwashes available on the market. While they all work in the same way, some of them contain additional ingredients, such as chlorhexidine, alcohol, fluoride and, in some cases, bleach (peroxide).
However, it's not necessary to use mouthwash.
If you do choose to use a mouthwash, many dentists and the NHS recommend skipping mouthwash straight after brushing. Using mouthwash right after brushing your teeth can wash away the fluoride, reducing its effect on your teeth - even if the mouthwash you use contains fluoride.
Mouthwash cannot remove plaque from your teeth, though it can lessen the damaging effects of plaque.
The benefits of chewing gum after eating have been widely debated. Chewing sugar-free gum after eating a meal can help your mouth produce more saliva.
This increase in saliva can help to wash away the plaque which builds up on your teeth. Moreover, the sticky nature of chewing gum can help to dislodge bits of food which might be caught in your teeth.
However, you should be cautious when having sugar-free chewing gum as it likely contains a sweetener called sorbitol. When taken in large quantities, sorbitol can have a laxative effect.
Always spit out your gum into a bin when you have finished chewing it. It's a common myth that swallowed gum will take 7 years to digest, or that it sticks to the inside of you and clogs you up. The fact is, chewing gum will eventually be passed through your body like everything else. However, chewing gum offers no nutritional value, so it's advised not to swallow it.
Poor oral health can cause more than just bad breath.
Tooth decay is when the enamel (the outer shell of the tooth) becomes damaged. Cavities (holes) may develop on the surface, exposing the dentin, or pulp cavity, exposing the nerves. Tooth decay can cause toothache, which can make eating, drinking or even breathing painful.
Gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, is can occur if plaque builds up on the teeth. This is usually easy to treat and doesn't typically cause permanent damage to teeth.
Gum disease (periodontitis), which can occur if gingivitis is left untreated, can lead to tooth loss. This occurs when plaque builds up below the gum line, causes the gum surrounding the tooth to become inflamed and reseed.
If bacteria infects the gum surrounding a tooth, an abscess can develop. Abscesses are puss-filled swellings which develop below the surface of the skin or tissues. When they occur in the mouth, they can put excessive pressure on the teeth surrounding them, causing intense pain which may worsen when eating or drinking. If you develop an abscess, it is important to see your dentist or a doctor.
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