With dentist appointments hard to come by since Covid, it’s more important than ever to brush up on your dental hygiene and caring for your teeth at home. Sarah Maber finds out more.
When it comes to teeth, prevention is better than cure. Many of us are behind with our regular check-ups because of the restrictions imposed due to the Covid-19 outbreak, while dental practices across the country are struggling to cope with demand as they start to re-open. So what should we be doing at home to protect our teeth and gums until we can return to a dental practice? We ask Dr Safa Al-Naher, clinical lead of The Care Dental Group in West London, for her love-your-teeth lowdown.
Use a fluoride toothpaste. ‘Now is not the time to change to a herbal toothpaste,’ says Dr Al-Naher. ‘One the biggest issues I see is a result of people opting for herbal toothpastes, believing they’re healthier – but fluoride is the only substance that can reverse tooth decay. If you eliminate that, you aren’t giving yourself the chance to reverse any damage.’
Avoid snacking on sugary foods. ‘The whole Covid situation, and the fact that more of us are working from home, has meant people are snacking a lot more,’ says Dr Al-Naher. ‘It’s the frequency of sugar that causes decay – dried fruit, for example, is full of sugar. Exposing your teeth to sugar multiple times a day is much worse than eating a whole box of chocolates all in one go.’ Dr Al-Naher recommends choosing savoury snacks like crackers, cheese and crudités. ‘Keep sugary food and fruits to mealtimes, and choose sugar-free snacks,’ she says.
Stick to a routine. ‘Brush twice a day for 2 minutes – once before breakfast and once before bed – and use a fluoride toothpaste. Technique matters – brush in a small, circular motion rather than up and down; electric toothbrushes make this easier. Your toothbrush won’t reach in between the teeth, so make sure you floss once a day and think about wiping the plaque from the side of your tooth rather than sawing away. If you find flossing too fiddly, you could use interdental brushes or floss picks. Anything that helps! Finally, don’t rinse, just spit, as rinsing reduces the benefits of fluoride.’
Look after sensitive teeth. ‘There are lots of good toothpastes out there for sensitive teeth and they really do help,’ says Dr Al-Naher. ‘But it’s worth thinking about why your teeth are so sensitive. Is your diet high in acid, do you consume lots of fizzy drinks and sugary foods? Are you brushing straight after a meal? Remember, you should leave a good half hour to 40 minutes after eating before you brush your teeth, to avoid damaging the enamel.’
Don’t bother with mouthwash. ‘It’s down to personal choice, but you don’t really need one!’ says Dr Al-Naher. ‘Instead, if you have sore or bleeding gums, stir 1 teaspoon of salt into half a cup of warm water; it’s great for healing as it kills the bad bacteria but leaves the good. Bathe your teeth and gums in it, gargle, then spit.’
Stained teeth? Use a gently abrasive toothpaste. ‘Staining molecules are present in lots of things,’ says Dr Al-Naher. ‘Tea, coffee, red wine, cola and turmeric are some of the worst offenders. The whitening toothpastes are quite good at keeping staining in check – but, as always, remember not to brush straight after a meal.’
When to visit your dentist. ‘If you have bleeding gums, bad breath, any pain, increased sensitivity to hot, cold or sweet things, jaw pain or swelling, then it’s important to make an urgent appointment at your dentist,’ says Dr Al-Naher.
For more tips on how to look after yourself at home, check out our tips on how to look after your back when working from home.
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