Preventing tooth decay and gum disease
Prevention is always better than cure. Maintaining good oral hygiene can lower the risk of adults and children developing problems such as tooth decay and gum disease.
These oral diseases can cause toothache and sensitivity as well as leading to tooth loss and other complications if they're not treated in time.
Tooth decay and gum disease are caused by dental plaque, a film of bacteria that builds up on the teeth. Over time, plaque can dissolve/eat away tooth enamel, causing cavities, or irritate the gums, causing gingivitis (gum disease). Bacteria on the tongue is a common cause of bad breath.
A good preventive dental care routine can reduce the build-up of plaque and help to keep your mouth fresh and healthy. Good oral hygiene is important for people of all ages, but dental hygiene for kids is especially vital because children's teeth are more easily damaged.
Brushing your teeth
Brushing your teeth twice a day is important for preventing tooth decay and removing leftover food from your teeth that can cause bad breath. We might recommend that you brush your teeth more often, or use some other cleaning aid in addition to a toothbrush if you need to improve your oral health.
Don't brush straight after eating or drinking, as this could damage the surfaces of your teeth. Instead, rinse your mouth with water and wait for at least 1 hour before brushing.
Choosing a toothbrush
Toothbrushes come with firm, medium or soft bristles. We recommend using a soft toothbrush instead.
You can also choose between an electric toothbrush or manual toothbrush. Some people find it easier to clean their teeth using an electric toothbrush, but both types clean just as well when you brush your teeth properly.
You should brush your child's teeth using a small children's toothbrush until their mouth is large enough for a normal toothbrush. Kids will need your help brushing until they develop the dexterity to use toothbrush themselves.
Fluoride toothpaste helps to prevent plaque and contains a safe level of fluoride, although it shouldn't be swallowed. Kids should use low-fluoride children's toothpaste or a small amount of normal toothpaste before the age of 6.
Different brands of toothpaste can clean just as well as others, but we may recommend certain products if you have sensitive teeth and gums or other special considerations.
How to brush your teeth
If your teeth show signs of decay, your dentist or hygienist might recommend improving your tooth brushing technique.
To make sure you remove as much plaque and food as possible, we recommend the following steps:
- Squeeze a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste onto the brush
- Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle
- Brush the front and back of your teeth using gentle circular motions
- Brush backwards and forwards across the chewing surfaces of your back teeth
- Brush your tongue from back to front
- Brush your teeth for two minutes in total
- Don't rinse your mouth straight after brushing to get the full benefit of fluoride
Flossing is an important part of preventive dentistry. Dental floss can clean the areas between and around teeth that brushing can't, helping to remove more plaque and trapped food that can cause cavities, decay, gum disease and bad breath.
You should floss once a day, though we may recommend flossing more often if you need to improve your oral hygiene.
How to floss
If you're not sure how to floss your teeth, or you want to improve your technique, our dentists recommend these steps for standard dental floss:
- Tear off around 45cm (18 inches) of floss
- Loop this floss around one of your middle fingers
- Tie the end to your other middle finger, which will collect the used floss
- Using both hands, hold a length of floss between your thumbs and index fingers
- Slide the floss in-between two teeth
- Clean gently using back and forth motions from the crown of the tooth to the gum line
- Repeat for all of the teeth in your mouth, using a new length of floss each time
- Dispose of the used floss
- The best way is to get one of our dental hygienists to teach you how to floss in person (make sure to ask at your next appointment).
Sugar is the leading cause of tooth decay, especially among children. When you eat or drink something containing sugar, this also feeds the bacteria in plaque, increasing the risk of tooth decay and erosion. Soft drinks, fruit juice and other acidic drinks can be even worse, as acid makes teeth wear down faster.
Cutting down on sugar can lower your risk of oral health problems. You could also improve your oral health by following a balanced diet that contains tooth-friendly food and drink such as:
- Milk and other dairy products containing calcium that strengthens teeth
- Leafy green vegetables for calcium and vitamins
- Crunchy fruit and vegetables to help scrape plaque off your teeth
- Tap water to rinse your mouth of bacteria, especially if your water supply contains fluoride
Not everyone needs to use mouthwash, but we may recommend adding mouthwash to your oral hygiene routine if you have gum disease or another problem and need to improve your oral health.
Mouthwash is not suitable for children, as some products contain alcohol and may be accidentally swallowed.
Dental check-up and clean
Regular visits to the dentist for a comprehensive oral health assessment and professional teeth cleaning are also important for preventive dental care. We'll recommend the appropriate visiting schedule based on your individual oral health needs.
To book a check-up or find out more about preventive dentistry services in Sydney North Shore, call our friendly team at Sailors Bay Dentistry on (02) 9958 0400 or complete our contact form.
Our dentists cover the following suburbs: Castlecrag, Naremburn, Chatswood, Artarmon, Crows Nest and Lane Cove