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I Wish I Had Looked After My Teeth …

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Care Of The Old Choppers.

Teeth you query? We’re going to talk about teeth? Perhaps I should explain.

 The reason I began writing this book was through curiously as to whether I could be healthier now in my later years if I had done the right stuff when I was younger … and then you start having problems with your teeth … horrible and expensive problems where even the cheapest, most unappealing option to resolve an issue costs more than a new clutch for the car. So, yes, effective long-term teeth maintenance is something I would have liked to have learnt about in my early twenties, and ideally stuff like this …

The Basics: Why Do We Develop Rotten Teeth?

Mostly, it seems, though a lack of effort or understanding in looking after them. If we don’t clean our teeth properly – perhaps because we are rushing the process or not taking sufficient care – a film of bacterial plaque will remain on the surface of those teeth after we have finished. In time this film of plaque will harden into tartar which can then cause gum disease and tooth decay. Is this all coming back to you from those lessons at school?     

Early stage gum disease – gingivitis – tells us that we are being neglectful by making our gums bleed when we brush and / or people squirming awkwardly away in response to our bad breath caused by the rotten flesh festering in our mouth. If we don’t sort out the issue at this stage by seeing a dentist, then our gingivitis might develop into more hardcore periodontitis where the tissue around the teeth is affected and may in time cause them to become loose and fall out. Smokers and diabetics, incidentally, are at higher risk of gum disease in the same way they are of contracting many other ghastly conditions.

The Art Of Brushing Our Teeth Properly

The NHS advises that you clean your teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day, once just before bed and then also on a second occasion at some other point during the day – as if you didn’t know that already. What you might not have known, however, is that they recommend you spend a full two minutes cleaning your teeth. Yes, it was a surprise to me also; timing myself this morning for research purposes, I seemed to have rattled through the whole exercise in just under forty – clearly frantic – seconds. Right …

By standing there for the full two minutes it encourages us to seek out all those little nooks and crannies that we wouldn’t have bothered about before during our frenetic brushing days, hopefully no plaque is left behind which means in turn that no tartar develops – perfect.

Possibly now, you’re wondering how to go about timing these two minutes and I’m glad to advise that there’s a whole industry out ready to assist you. If you click on to Spotify on any other music browser and search Brush DJ you’ll find a huge array of songs edited perfectly to that two-minute guideline (although check that they are indeed two minutes as some playlists have tracks considerably longer than others … I love Ed Sheeran as much as the next man but brushing my teeth to him for over four minutes was making my neck ache). Alternatively, but less culturally rewarding, you can buy a two-minute egg timer for this very purpose.

Once you have cleaned your teeth – and here’s another surprise for those of us unaware of the most basic rules of dental hygiene – DON’T then rinse your mouth out as by doing so you’re washing away all that fluoride from the toothpaste that’s designed to stay on your teeth and help protect them; instead, just spit out any excess before then strolling off from the sink with the confidence of someone content in the knowledge that their teeth are covered in protective fluoride.

The Usual Questions.

Is any particular toothpaste better than the rest? I’m sure that manufactures will have a view on this, but all the NHS recommends is that a paste contains a fluoride level of at least 1350 parts per million (described as ‘ppm’ on the side of the tube).

Is it better to use an electric toothbrush? Seemingly not; the advice seems to be that a non-electric brush can be just as good if you use it effectively, although going electric might make cleaning easier with its oscillating or rotating head. I’ve also just discovered that my electric brush incorporates a two-minute timer … I thought it gave that little shudder because the battery was running down – very smart …

Should I brush more than twice a day? Interesting. As we have said the NHS suggests brushing our teeth twice a day with one of those occasions just before bed. Is this because of some danger of damage being caused to the enamel by aggressive overbrushing? – as all those tramlines in my teeth demonstrate from the days before my dentist advised me that with an electric brush you need merely present the bristles to the teeth surface and let them do the clever bit, not ram the brush against that surface in the way you would sandpaper a skirting board.

Is it good to use mouthwash? Yes – but not straight after cleaning your teeth because you’re likely to rinse away all that lovely fluoride from your toothpaste. Other times during the day are good – maybe after lunch? And talking about lunch, don’t eat or drink for half an hour after using mouthwash, which is handy because it will taste horrible.

Other Activities To Keep Your Teeth In Shape.

It is also good to floss and / or use an interdental brush once a day … yeah, I know it’s all a bit of a chore … because they can help reduce gum disease and bad breath caused by a build-up of plaque between the teeth. Interdental brushes come in different sizes so experiment to see what size is best for you; don’t go forcing too large a brush into a tiny gap when a smaller one would be better. And don’t be surprised if you suffer a little bleeding at first with interdental brushes, persist with them and that bleeding should reduce as the gums become healthier; if it doesn’t then speak with your dentist. And don’t use toothpicks to rip away at trapped food – that’s just tempting infection.

Have regular check-ups with a dentist – at least every one to two years but more often if you have had gum disease in the past, or at a higher risk of developing the condition, perhaps through being a smoker or diabetic as we mentioned above. Your dentist or their hygienist can examine your teeth for any problems and professionally clean them whilst removing any plaque that has built up.

Be aware that sugary or starchy foods and drinks tend to be associated with dental issues; the more you can reduce these from your diet the better your oral health is likely to be. This explains why our ancient ancestors had few cavities, it seems, thanks to a diet with little in the way of sweet treats but lots of weeds with surprisingly antibacterial qualities. Oh, and they never lived long enough to develop cavities in the first place of course – that probably helped!

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