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Looking After Your Mouth

Here are some great tips and advice on how to look after your oral health.  These are general guidelines that you should discuss with your dentist and/or dental hygienist.

 

Why is it important to prevent acidity in your mouth?

Tooth decay starts when the mouth becomes acidic and the acid softens tooth enamel.  After eating, the bacteria in dental plaque, digests any sugars present in the food or drink, to produce acid for around 30-45 minutes.  Drinking or eating acidic foods such as oranges, grapefruit and soft fizzy drinks will also increase the acidity of your mouth and soften your enamel.

 

It is best to brush your teeth before a meal to remove plaque before it produces acids or wait for 45 minutes after a meal, to allow the enamel to remineralise before brushing, otherwise you could brush away the softened enamel.

 

What foods should I avoid to protect my teeth?

Fizzy drinks and fruit juices are particularly bad due to their high sugar content and acidity.  The acidity softens the enamel whilst the bacteria in plaque digest sugar to release acid that further erodes the enamel.  

 

Does sugar free chewing gum help?

Yes, sugar free chewing gum stimulates the production of saliva, which reverses the mouth’s acidity helping softened enamel to remineralise.

 

How often should I brush?

You should brush your teeth at least twice a day for 2 minutes using a fluoridated toothpaste, the fluoride helps enamel to resist acidity. 

 

If you can afford an electric toothbrush these provide excellent results in consistently removing plaque efficiently.

 

Why should I floss?

You should floss everyday, as this is the best method of removing plaque from in-between your teeth. Flossing is important, as your toothbrush cannot reach the areas between your teeth.   Ask your dentist or hygienist about the best flossing technique for your mouth.

 

Why do I have sensitive teeth? 

Enamel is the hard layer that protects the dentine core of a tooth, it has no nerve endings in it.. The dentine core has lots of nerve endings and blood vessels supplying it.  The pain associated with cavities occurs when enamel is eaten away by acids and bacteria infiltrate the dentine. This can be fixed with a filling.

 

“Sensitive teeth” occurs when enamel is worn away or the gums have receded exposing the root dentine.  Hot and cold drinks or brushing can make these areas very painful.  Your dentist can advise on the best treatments to reduce the sensitivity.

 

 

What can I do to significantly reduce the chance of getting cavities? 

Almost everyone has the same teeth structure but some people never get cavities – what is their secret? 

 

People who grow up in areas with fluoridated water have a far lower incidence of tooth decay as the fluoride becomes embedded in the enamel as it forms, making it more resistant to acid attack.  Continuing to brush regularly with fluoridated toothpaste significantly reduces the incidence of decay, as does drinking fluoridated water.  Daily flossing will remove the plaque between teeth further reducing the risk of cavities between the teeth.

 

Diet is another major factor.  Every time you eat something sugary, your mouth becomes more acidic for 30-45 minutes.  So eating or drinking acidic or sweet items regularly during the day will increase the chance of decay starting.  It is best to reduce the frequency of sweet snacks and to chew sugar free gum after eating to stimulate saliva flow, as it helps to reverse the mouth’s acidity.

 

Mouth Cancers [1]

An important part of your dentist’s inspection is to look for signs of early cancerous changes in your mouth.  Symptoms include:  a small lump that may or may not be painful and/or bleeds; an ulcer that does not clear up within 10 days; sore or bleeding gums; and/or loss of sensation within the mouth. 

 

Two of the critical key risk factors are smoking and chewing tobacco, which raise the risk of mouth cancer six fold.  Heavy consumption of alcohol, especially spirits, also increases the risk of developing mouth cancer.  People over 45 are more likely to develop mouth cancer and men are twice as likely as women to develop mouth cancer.

 

Always raise any changes with your dentist early. It is far easier to treat early changes than to treat a lesion which is well advanced.

 

 

 



[1] Better Health Victoria:  http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Mouth_cancer