Preventing Tooth Decay

Oral hygiene

Maintaining good oral hygiene is one of the most effective ways to prevent tooth decay.

Brushing

Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.

It is also important that you brush your teeth in the right way. The following advice may help:

  • Place the head of your toothbrush against your teeth, then tilt the bristle tips to a 45-degree angle against the gum line. Move the brush in small circular movements, several times, on all the surfaces of every tooth.
  • Brush the outer surfaces of each tooth, upper and lower, keeping the bristles angled against the gum line.
  • Use the same method on the inside surfaces of all your teeth.
  • Brush the biting surfaces of the teeth.
  • To clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several small circular strokes with the front part of the brush.
  • Brushing your tongue will help freshen your breath and will clean your mouth by removing bacteria.

It is important to replace your toothbrush on a regular basis because they can wear out and become less effective in removing plaque. Most toothbrushes need to be replaced every two to three months.

If you are considering buying an electric toothbrush, studies have shown that the most effective type of electric toothbrush is one in which the head has a rotating oscillation action - meaning the head spins one way and then the other. As with manual toothbrushes, you will need to replace the head of your electric toothbrush once every two to three months.

Flossing

Flossing is an important part of oral hygiene. It removes plaque and food particles from between your teeth and under the gum line - areas a toothbrush can not always reach. You should clean between your teeth at least once a day with floss.

Your dentist or hygienist can advise you on flossing techniques, but the following tips may help:

  • Break off about 18 inches of floss or dental tape and wind most of it around one of your middle fingers. Wind the remaining floss around the same finger of the other hand. As you use the floss, you will take up the used section with this finger.
  • Hold the floss tightly between your thumb and forefingers, with about an inch of floss between them, leaving no slack. Use a gentle rocking motion to guide the floss between your teeth. Do not jerk the floss or snap the floss into the gums.
  • When the floss reaches the gum line, curve it into a C-shape against one tooth until you feel resistance.
  • Hold the floss against the tooth. Gently scrape the side of the tooth, moving the floss away from the gum. Repeat on the other side of the gap, along the side of the next tooth.
  • Keep to a regular pattern when you floss your teeth, which should help make sure you do not miss any food particles.

Using a dental mouthwash at a separate time to brushing can also help prevent tooth decay.

Diet

Try to avoid eating lots of foods and drinks that are high in fermented carbohydrates. This includes:

  • fizzy drinks
  • coffee and tea with sugar added
  • chocolate
  • sweets
  • cakes
  • crisps
  • biscuits
  • white bread

Healthier alternatives for snacks and drinks include:

  • cheese
  • fruit and vegetables
  • sugar-free gum
  • unsweetened tea, coffee or carbonated drinks

You should not avoid carbohydrates altogether, as they are an important part of a balanced diet, but try and choose the type of carbohydrates known as unrefined carbohydrates, as the bacteria finds it harder to break these down into acid.

Good sources of unrefined carbohydrates include:

  • wholemeal or brown bread
  • pasta
  • rice
  • potatoes
  • leafy green vegetables
  • eggs