Preventing toothache 

Keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible to avoid toothache.

  • Limit the amount of sugary foods and drinks you have. Have them as an occasional treat, and only at mealtimes.
  • Brush your teeth twice a day using a toothpaste containing fluoride. Gently brush your gums and tongue as well.
  • After brushing, spit the excess paste out but do not rinse.
  • Clean between your teeth using dental floss. If necessary, use a mouthwash but at a different time to brushing.
  • Avoid smoking, as it can affect your oral health.
  • Visit your dentist at least once a year. Consider having your teeth cleaned occasionally by a hygienist. Children should have dental check-ups every six months so that any decay can be spotted and treated early.

Oral hygiene

Maintaining good oral hygiene is one of the most effective ways of preventing the need for treatment. Brush your teeth at least twice a day using fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that can help prevent tooth decay. See the topic about Fluoride for more information.

Flossing is also an important part of oral hygiene. Take a piece of dental floss and gently guide it into the space between your teeth. Move the floss up and down several times before moving on to the next space.

It is recommended that you floss your teeth once a day. You may find flossing tricky at first, and you may experience some bleeding from your gums for the first few days. If you notice your gums bleed this is a sign that more attention should be paid to this area and should not be seen as a sign not to brush. The bleeding of your gums should improve with time. Ask your dentist for advice if you need assistance or if the bleeding continues.

Diet

Do not consume food and drink that is high in sugar too often. The bacteria in your mouth will break down the sugar into acid, which attacks your teeth and causes tooth decay. Eating sugary foods regularly is more likely to cause tooth decay than eating a large amount of sugar in one sitting.

Food and drinks that are high in sugar include:

  • fizzy drinks
  • chocolate
  • sweets
  • cakes
  • biscuits

Check the label to see how much sugar a product contains.

Chewing sugar-free gum after you have eaten may also help prevent tooth decay. When you chew gum, you produce saliva which neutralises the acid in your mouth before it can damage your teeth.

Smoking

Smoking can affect the way your mouth heals after extractions. Smoking is also a big risk factor for gum disease, another dental condition.

Giving up smoking will also help prevent life-threatening conditions such as:

  • mouth cancer
  • heart disease, when your heart's blood supply is blocked or interrupted by a build-up of fatty substances
  • stroke, when the blood supply to the brain is restricted or interrupted
  • lung cancer

Speak to your GP if you want to give up smoking. A number of treatments are available to increase your chances of quitting successfully, and your GP can put you in touch with local support groups and one-to-one counsellors.

The NHS Smoking Helpline can also offer you advice and encouragement to help you give up smoking. Call the helpline on 0800 022 4332 or visit the NHS Smokefree website.