Dental dos and don'ts

Sometimes, despite the best intentions, it can be easy to pick up bad habits when it comes to caring for your teeth. To help, we’re going to share some things you should be doing to look after your teeth and smile, as well as some things you should definitely avoid.

Do see your dentist sooner rather than later

If you experience any pain or unusual lumps or bumps, it’s always good to get an early opinion from your dentist. You may just need their professional reassurance. If you do need treatment it’s usually best carried out promptly, before problems have a chance to get worse and solutions more expensive.

The early stages of gum disease, for example, can usually be tackled by improving your oral hygiene, but left untreated gum disease can result in loose or missing teeth. Similarly, early decay will often require a simple filling, but more advanced decay may need root canal treatment to save your tooth. A head-in-the-sand approach to dental health is rarely successful.

Don’t take matters into your own hands

If you’ve ever been tempted to google DIY dental treatments. STOP! Step away from your computer. Worryingly, there are a number of YouTube videos showing you how to carry out all sorts of dental treatments that we take years of professional training to perfect. However simple or affordable a DIY alternative may seem, it’s definitely not worth the risk.

Unsurprisingly, most DIY treatments involve using homemade techniques and materials, which aren’t designed for the job in hand. Most importantly, there’s no professional supervision. No one to examine your smile and take X-rays to check you’re even suitable for your chosen treatment, and no one to make sure your treatment is carried out safely. In the case of DIY braces, “treatment” is carried out using elastic bands, which can put too much force on your teeth and move them too quickly. This can result in unstable results, or worse still, your teeth could detach from your gums! DIY dentistry might save you money now, but it will definitely cost you more in the long run.

Do brush your teeth thoroughly

Good brushing is such an important and simple way to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Throughout the day (and night) plaque – a thin, sticky layer of bacteria – accumulates on your teeth and the only way to remove it is to manually brush it away. When plaque is combined with sugar, the bacteria feed and produce acids, which can damage your tooth enamel and result in decay and cavities. In more severe cases, the acids can work their way through your teeth, causing an infection that may require root canal treatment.

Over time plaque will turn into tartar if it’s not removed. Tartar can stain, turning your teeth yellow or even brown, and it can also cause gingivitis. You won’t be able to remove tartar yourself, you’ll need to see your dentist or a hygienist to have it professionally whisked away.

Thankfully just two minutes twice a day is enough to keep plaque at bay – and don’t forget to floss once a day too. Otherwise plaque will build up between your teeth.

Don’t adopt the latest dental fad

At least not until you’ve spoken to your dentist. There’s usually years or even decades of research behind the advice we give out and the techniques we recommend. That’s why it can sometimes be concerning to see dental fads with little or no scientific evidence taking the internet by storm.

Brushing with activated charcoal is a recent example. It’s true that this could whiten your teeth by a few shades. However, we don’t know enough about the long-term effects of brushing with charcoal. It’s potentially abrasive and could damage your teeth’s enamel. No teeth whitening products containing charcoal have been approved by the British Dental Association or the American Dental Association.

Do get your teeth whitened by a dental professional

There are three different ways to whiten your teeth: over-the-counter products such as whitening strips and toothpastes; professional home whitening kits; and laser teeth whitening, which is carried out by your dentist.

Over-the-counter products are the most cost effective option, but legally they can only contain up to 0.1% hydrogen peroxide, so they’re not going to dramatically change the shade of your teeth.

Professional home whitening kits and laser whitening both include a consultation with a dentist. Your treatment will be provided by a dentist – or a dental therapist or hygienist who is supervised by a dentist. Professional whitening gel contains a higher percentage of hydrogen peroxide (currently up to 6%) so you should see a noticeable difference.

In the UK, teeth whitening has to be supervised by a dentist and it’s illegal for anyone else to provide this treatment.

We hope you find these dos and don’ts helpful. You can find more dental advice and tips on our Facebook and Twitter pages.