From dealing with bad breath to getting the right diet and banishing gum disease and tooth decay, we’ve compiled everything you need to stay dentally fit – for a lifelong beautiful smile in Catford, Lewisham and South East London.
They say ‘prevention is better than a cure’ and here at the Penerley Road Dental Practice, we think education is the best way to ensure ongoing preventative care. In other words, we want to help you and your families learn how to take care of your oral health so you need to visit us less often. It’s not that we don’t want to see you, just that we know you have other things you’d rather be doing!
The key to a healthy smile lies in dental hygiene – your daily routine of brushing, flossing and rinsing, combined with regular check-ups at the dentist and biannual appointments with your dental hygienist. This is the cheapest and most effective way of preventing gum disease and tooth decay – the two main causes of tooth loss. Research has highlighted a connection between poor oral hygiene and chronic health conditions such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes – so keeping on top of your oral health is not only crucial to enjoying a healthy smile, but a healthy body and mind, too.
Dental dos and don’ts
- Brush for two minutes, twice a day.
- Floss, or use interdental brushes, once a day.
- Rinse after brushing with antibacterial mouthwash.
- Eat mindfully – consider the sugar and acid content of the foods you consume, and their colour – as a rule, dark-hued foods and drinks will be more tannin-rich, leading to staining.
- Visit your dentist and hygienist for regular check-ups and preventive care.
- Smoke – it’s the major cause of staining and deeper tooth damage, as well as cancer of the mouth, lips and tongue.
- Grind your teeth – it will wear down your teeth over time. If you’re aware you’re grinding, ask your dentist about a mouth guard.
- Drink fizzy drinks – the CO2 that makes those refreshing bubbles is acidic and will erode the enamel – even in sparkling water!
- Snack constantly – the less frequently you coat your teeth with food, the less prone they will be to stains and damage.
Tooth decay and gum disease
Bacteria in plaque breaks down the food you eat (particularly sugar) and converts it into acids. These acids can dissolve the enamel of your teeth. Saliva contains minerals that neutralise these acids and lubricants that help to remove food debris from your teeth. Tooth decay occurs when your saliva can’t handle the number of acid attacks. So by eating less often, avoiding sugary foods and using fluoride toothpastes and mouthwashes, you can help to protect your teeth.
Gingivitis means inflammation of the gums. This is when the gums around the teeth become very red and swollen. Often the swollen gums bleed when they are brushed during cleaning.
Long-standing gingivitis can turn into periodontal disease. There are a number of types of periodontal disease and they all affect the tissues supporting the teeth. As the disease gets worse the bone anchoring the teeth in the jaw is lost, making the teeth loose. If this is not treated, the teeth may eventually fall out.
Probably. Most people suffer from some form of gum disease, and it is the major cause of tooth loss in adults. However, the disease develops very slowly in most people, and it can be slowed down to a rate that should allow you to keep most of your teeth for life.
The first sign is blood on the toothbrush or in the rinsing water when you clean your teeth. Your gums may also bleed when you are eating, leaving a bad taste in your mouth. Your breath may also become unpleasant.
- Brush with fluoride toothpaste twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening, for two minutes. Time yourself!
- If you’re using a manual toothbrush, start with outer and inner surfaces. Brush at a 45-degree angle against the gum line using short horizontal strokes, taking care to reach the back teeth. Next, hold the brush flat and brush back and forth along the chewing surfaces. When you reach the inner sides of your front teeth, hold the brush vertically and brush the tip gently up and down.
- If you’re using an electric toothbrush, use circular movements to brush your teeth and don’t scrub too hard along the gum line; you’ll risk irritating your gums if you do.
- Don’t forget your tongue! Brush in a back-to-front sweeping motion to remove food particles and the bacteria that cause bad breath.
- Take around 45cm of floss or dental tape, and wind it round your fingers so that you have a couple of inches taut between your hands.
- Push the taut floss or dental tape as far down as it will go between the teeth and into the area between your teeth and gums.
- Move the floss up and down between each tooth, 8-10 times, to remove food and plaque.
Fluoride mouthwash provides extra ammunition in your oral health arsenal – but it is not a suitable replacement for brushing. To get the best benefits, swish it around your mouth for 30 seconds, then spit it out.
- Crowns and bridges – Carefully clean around the margins of the crowns to protect the area where the crown meets the gum. If you don’t, your gums may recede which will not only look unsightly, it may expose sensitive dentine. This is the part of the tooth that covers the nerve.
- Implants – If you’ve invested in implants, it’s imperative that you folllow a strict daily cleaning regime to prevent peri-implantitis – inflammation of the area around the implant. This not only causes the implant to fail, but also leads to catastrophic bone loss. As well as excellent cleaning at home, you will need to attend regular hygiene appointments for a more in-depth clean with specialist tools.
- Dentures – Dentures must be kept as clean as possible to protect against further tooth loss, gum disease and bacterial or fungal infections. Clean them at least once during the day, after meals if necessary, and extra-thoroughly at night time. Your dentist will give cleaning advice specific to the type of denture you’re using – but, as a general rule, the cleaning process involves brushing, soaking in effervescent denture cleaner, then brushing again as you would with your own teeth.
Bad breath can be caused by a number of factors, but is most commonly the result of poor oral hygiene. Persistent bad breath can be caused by more serious conditions such as periodontitis.
Regularly brushing and flossing your teeth, using a no alcohol mouthwash and cleaning your tongue will all help reduce the instances of bad breath. You should also avoid strongly flavoured foods and reduce smoking and drinking alcohol.
If bad breath is causing you embarrassment, come and see us. Regular visits to the hygienist and the dentist will identify whether there are any deeper problems which are the cause of your bad breath. We will assess your condition and develop a treatment regime to help overcome the problems.
- Mouth Rinses – you have the choice between those containing alchohol, or not, with sweetener or without and flavoured or non-flavoured. Most mouth rinses are designed to last up to eight hours.
- Oral sprays – are convenient for your pocket, handbag, car or whenever you are away from the bathroom and want reassurance of fresh breath.
- Toothpaste – some do not contain sodium lauryl sulphate (a foaming detergent) and are therefore non-foaming. This means your mouth does not fill up with suds, as is the case with most normal toothpastes, and you can continue cleaning your teeth for longer, which is preferred by many dental professionals.
Diet and nutrition
If you aim to eat a balanced diet – i.e. equal parts carbohydrate and fruit and veg, along with smaller portions of protein and dairy – then you’ll already be on the right path to great oral health. Leafy green vegetables, nuts and lots of fibre are also beneficial for your teeth and gums. Sugar and acid (mainly from fizzy drinks and citrus fruits) should be avoided as much as possible. Our hygiene team is qualified to help patients with healthy eating and lifestyle choices, so do book an appointment if you need some advice.
Limiting your intake of sugar and acid is the key to avoiding cavities and gum problems. While it’s easy to cut down on sweets and lemonade, there are lots of foods and drinks out there that you may not realise are bad for your teeth.
Sugar hides in lots of everyday foods – these are the main culprits:
- Baked beans
- Ketchup, soy sauce, barbeque sauce
- Stir-in sauces
- Ready meals
- Tomato soup
- Pre-prepared sandwiches
- Salad dressing
- Cereals & breakfast bars
Timing is everything. Limit your intake of sugary, acidic foods and drinks to mealtimes – these are the times when your protective saliva production is working on overdrive. Snacking on sweet things, however small in quantity, all day is much worse for your teeth, as you are constantly exposing your teeth to sugar and acid attacks.
“I highly recommend this dental practice. I had previously had a very bad experience and service from another dental practice which resulted in me having a great fear and no trust in dentists. Then I reached a point after breaking a couple of teeth that I needed to visit a dentist. They are wonderful here.”