Oral Health Advice

Answers to your frequently asked questions about oral health

Tips, tricks and advice on looking after your mouth and your teeth!

They say ‘prevention is the best medicine’ and here at 543 Dental Centre, 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!

Tooth decay FAQs

What is tooth decay?

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.

Where does tooth decay occur?

There are three main areas where tooth decay occurs:

On the smooth surfaces of your teeth
The smooth surfaces of your teeth come into regular contact with food and bacteria. But by brushing with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day, you can significantly reduce the risk of this type of decay.

Between your teeth
Decay often occurs in the areas between your teeth where your toothbrush can’t reach. The most effective way to clean these areas is by using dental floss or dental tape.

On the chewing surface of your teeth
The tiny pits and fissures on the chewing surface of your teeth can attract microscopic food particles and bacteria. Often your toothbrush bristles are too large to reach these areas. Ask your dentist about fissure sealants for children.

What can I do to prevent decay?

Try following these tips:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Use a fluoride mouthwash (but not directly after brushing).
  • Floss your teeth regularly.
  • Chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production.
  • Avoid eating between meals.
  • Cut down on foods containing sugar.

What type of sugar causes tooth decay?

Refined sugars cause the most damage to your teeth. These are added to food and drinks during the manufacturing process.Look out for:

  • Dextrose
  • Maltose
  • Glucose
  • Sucrose
  • Fructose

Are 'low sugar' products safe?

When sugar comes into contact with your teeth, plaque pH falls to levels that can cause tooth decay within two minutes and it can take up to two hours for your mouth to return to normal. So it’s not just the amount of sugar you consume that can damage your teeth. If you eat or drink low sugar products throughout the day, the effect can be just as damaging.

Are artificial sweeteners safe for teeth?

‘Sugar-free’ or ‘kind to teeth’ products usually have sweeteners that don’t cause tooth decay, although they should be used sparingly as some have been linked with other health problems. These include:

  • Lactitol
  • Xylitol
  • Sobitol
  • Aspartame
  • Saccharin

Is sugar-free chewing gum good for my teeth?

Yes, chewing sugar-free gum increases the production of saliva in your mouth. This can help to neutralise plaque acid and prevent tooth decay. There’s also some evidence to suggest that Xylitol (a sweetener often added to sugar-free gum) can help to reduce tooth decay. But it can have laxative effects if it is consumed in large quantities.

What can I do to reduce the effect of sugar on my teeth?

There are plenty of things you can do to help. Here are some tips:

  • Stick to unprocessed, unrefined, natural foods wherever possible.
  • Check the ingredients of food, drinks and medicines carefully. Remember, sugar can be added to sweet and savoury products.
  • Ask for sugar-free alternatives wherever possible.
  • Consume sugary food and drinks less often.
  • Avoid eating between meals.
  • See your dentist regularly.

Oral Hygiene FAQs

Why is oral hygiene so important?

Regular visits to the hygienist are vital to maintain good oral health and are an important supplement to regular check-ups. Having made an assessment of your condition, the hygienist will recommend an appropriate treatment interval.

Can my dentist do oral hygiene checks?

Of course our dentists are fully qualified in all aspects of oral hygiene, but our hygienists have undergone particular training in this area, meaning they focus on ensuring plaque and tartar are removed from both on the teeth themselves and from below the gum line where most damage can be caused.

Can I do anything to prevent oral hygiene problems occurring?

Maintaining a rigorous cleaning programme at home is vital if you want to minimise hygienist appointments. Our hygienist will give you advice and tips not only about how to clean your teeth, but also about diet and general lifestyle.

Bad Breath (halitosis)

What causes bad breath?

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.

What can I do to prevent bad breath?

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.

What if I have a persistent problem?

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.

Gum disease (periodontitis)

What causes gum disease?

Gum disease is caused by a build-up of plaque, which forms every day on the surface of your teeth and gums. If plaque is not removed it builds up over time and forms what is known as tartar. At this stage brushing at home cannot remove the tartar and if left will cause gum irritation and often leads to bleeding.

How can I avoid gum disease?

Daily brushing and flossing will help to prevent the build-up of plaque and tartar, but regular visits to the hygienist are essential so that any tartar that remains can be removed before it causes any damage.

What happens if gum disease is left untreated?

The consequences of not treating gum disease are serious. If the symptoms of swollen and bleeding gums are ignored, the gums can start to erode and the teeth will lose support and possibly fall out. This is known as periodontitis, a disease which can be controlled but not cured.

Is there a link between gum disease and heart disease?

There is some evidence to suggest that people with serious gum disease are more prone to heart disease, stroke and diabetes, but few people are aware of these links. Maintaining a good level of oral hygiene should be part of your approach to improve overall health.

Children’s Oral Health FAQs

What age should my child first see the dentist?

Children should visit the dentist as soon as their first milk teeth appear. This helps them to become familiar with the surroundings and reduces the chances of fear developing in later childhood. They should have their first check-up before their first birthday.

At what age should children first brush their teeth?

Again, as soon as their first milk teeth appear, you should either brush children’s teeth for them or supervise them, until they are around the age of 7 or 8.

How long should children brush their teeth?

Children should be encouraged to brush their teeth at least every morning and evening for two minutes. You should ensure that the child spits out excess toothpaste but does not rinse with too much water as this washes away the fluoride in the toothpaste.

For information on how to help keep your children’s teeth healthy, check out the fabulous Teeth Team website!

Have a question? We're here to help!