You brush your teeth twice a day. You clean them for two minutes. You use mouthwash. So why are you still getting cavities?
Statistics revealed that more than half of UK adults have one or more decayed or damaged teeth. Nearly three quarters of children aged eight to 15 have some level of decay in their teeth. Although most people understand the importance of brushing your teeth, this alone is not enough to keep the cavities at bay.
We've put together 10 top ways to lower your risk of developing decay:
1. Brush – but do it properly
You may brush twice a day – and it may be for two minutes – but are you doing it properly? All surfaces should be brushed, including the inside and those wisdom teeth right at the back. Consider investing in an electric toothbrush which studies have shown do a better job at removing more plaque in hard-to-reach areas.
2. Chew gum
First things first, make sure it is sugar free. Chewing gum helps the mouth generate saliva, which is crucial for a healthy mouth. Saliva tackles any acids produced by bacteria that forms after a meal or sugary drink. Chewing gum is perfect as a post-meal solution, especially if it is not possible to use a toothbrush.
3. Avoid (or at least limit) sugary foods
Unfortunately, limiting your favourite sugary products will also improve the overall health of your mouth. When sugar interacts with bacteria and leads to plaque. This dissolves the enamel, leading to cavities. Less sugar = less chance of developing cavities.
4. Actually visit the dentist
You may think your teeth are perfect and cavity-free but only a dentist can make this judgement. Make sure you visit the dentist regularly – at least one a year – even if you are told you have A* teeth every time. A lot can change in 12 months and it is always better to be safe than sorry (especially when the sorry can involve hundreds of pounds worth of dental treatment).
5. Cut back on snacks
Frequent snacking is often shunned – but usually because of its association with weight gain. However it is also detrimental to your dental health. By snacking often, even just a little, it is providing continuous fuel for acid within your mouth. So what you may think is a harmless 11am bowl of fruit could actually be a one-way ticket towards decay. Of course, it is unrealistic to assume we will stop snacking completely. If you do, follow it up with a piece of sugar-free gum or wait 30 minutes and brush.
6. Increase your fluoride intake
Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that is key to preventing cavities and fighting off damage. In some areas of the UK, it is added to the water supply and it is also a common ingredient in toothpaste and mouthwash. However if you rely on bottled water, you may not be getting enough – it often does not contain much fluoride.
7. Check your fillings
When did you last get that tooth filled? Fillings are great at prevent further decay but over time they can weaken or start to break down. This can allow plaque to get through and build up. In the same way, dental devices – sure as dentures – can lose their fit and allow decay to build up underneath them.
8. Don't rinse
Films, adverts and TV shows (wrongly) depict characters rinsing out their mouth after a two-minute brushing frenzy. But this also washes away the fluoride you just spent two minutes pushing around your mouth. Spit out the toothpaste by all means – but move away from rinsing!
You have heard it all before but it is true – flossing makes a difference. Break off around 45cm and wind some around a finger on each hand, pulling it tightly between your thumbs and forefingers. Use a gentle 'rocking' motion to remove any debris between the teeth. If your gums are particularly sensitive, you can use interdental brushes as an alternative to more traditional floss.
10. Assess your age
How old you are can make a difference to how decay prone your teeth are. As you grow older, gums may recede and teeth can wear down, exposing their vulnerabilities. Certain medications more frequently used by older people can also reduce saliva flow.