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Beyond brushing & flossing: Tips and tricks for healthy teeth

 
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We all know the deal about cleaning our teeth to prevent dental decay and to maintain healthy teeth. We’re mostly well trained from a young age and brushing our teeth is almost automatic. It’s one of the first things we do in the morning and the last action of the day before we fall into bed. We also know to avoid sugar and while there is some recent debate, the current advice is still to floss daily. But what else can we do to maintain healthy teeth? Here are a few tips and tricks:

Nibble on cheese

Milk and unsweetened dairy foods including cheese and yogurt help to maintain healthy teeth. They contain the minerals calcium and phosphorus, which we need for strong enamel, and they’re not acidic so they don’t cause erosion. Eating hard cheese also helps to stimulate production of saliva, which further reduces acid levels in the mouth after meals. Adequate saliva flow also helps rinse your mouth of food residue.

Eat dark chocolate

There is evidence that compounds in dark chocolate are effective against plaque and tooth decay. An extract from the cacao bean husk has been shown to fight the bacteria associated with dental caries and therefore reduces acid production in the mouth. It also helps harden tooth enamel. Most of us aren’t going to be chewing on raw cacao beans but we might be able to gradually wean ourselves away from sweet milk chocolate to low sugar, dark chocolate.

Chew gum

Chewing low-acid, sugarless gum after meals can help maintain healthy teeth by increasing the flow of saliva. This helps wash away food debris and neutralises other acids in the mouth. Increased saliva flow also carries with the minerals such as calcium to help strengthen tooth enamel. Look for gum approved by the Australian Dental Association.

Sip your sugar through drinking straws

Sweet or acidic drinks including soft drinks, fruit juice, cordials and energy drinks should be off the daily menu for anyone concerned about healthy teeth. Most drinks except for water and milk are already acidic and bacteria in your mouth create more enamel-destroying acid when they feed on sugars. Many drinks will also stain your teeth but drinking through a straw will keep the fluid off your pearly whites.

Toughen up on sports drinks

Sports drinks are acidic and high in sugar. For the average person, water is the best fluid for hydrating or rehydrating before, during or after exercise. If you do use sports drinks, squirt them into the back of your mouth to avoid your teeth and rinse with water afterwards.

Limit snacking

Studies have found it is the frequency of exposure to sweet foods as well as the quantity that is strongly associated with dental decay. So if you must eat sweet foods, restrict them to meal times and avoid snacking between meals. Between meals, encourage snacking on crunchy, raw vegetables such as celery and carrots for healthy teeth.

Use a mouthguard during contact sports

Protect your smile from external forces by investing in a mouthguard - preferably one custom made for your mouth. Athletes who play contact sports such as football and hockey are in greatest need, but chipped, broken, loose or lost teeth are common in many other sports when contact is made with a person, ball, bat or hard surface. As well as protecting your teeth, mouthguards protect against jaw injuries and concussion.

Monitor medication side effects

Many common medications can block the normal level of saliva production necessary for healthy teeth. Some of the medications most likely to cause a dry mouth include antihistamines, antidepressants, blood pressure tablets, antibiotics, drugs for gastric reflux, bronchodilators, strong painkillers and ‘fluid pills’. Pay particular attention to oral hygiene if the treatment is short term but talk to your doctor about how to maintain healthy teeth on longer-term treatments.

Visit the dentist for preventive care

While 80% of children have annual visits to the dentist for check ups and preventive treatment, adults seem less vigilant. Just over half (55%) of adults 25-44 years have seen a dentist in the last 12 months. 45-64 year olds are more like to visit the dentist for problems with their teeth. Yet the facts speak for themselves. People who regularly see the dentist are more likely to have healthy teeth.

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Feb 26, 2019 | Found in: Health,
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