Oral health is just as important as your overall well-being because it has an impact on so many aspects of your life, including your sex life! Read this blog by Dentist, David Bretton to find out more.
The importance of oral health has been known for many years – even as far back as 3500 – 3000 BC when the Egyptians made a brush by fraying the end of a twig! We’ve come a long way from there and now, more than ever, we appreciate the absolute importance of good oral health.
Ensuring good oral health massively reduces your risk of decay, gum disease, bad breath, tooth wear and oral cancer. Oral health has also been strongly linked with other general health concerns including the leading global cause of death – heart disease. It’s also linked to other chronic illnesses such as diabetes and even erectile dysfunction.
“Oral health has also been strongly linked with other general health concerns including the leading global cause of death – heart disease.”
What’s more, researchers from King’s College London found that volunteers rated the same individuals as less intelligent, less popular and less attractive when they had rotten or discoloured teeth compared with straight, white and healthy teeth! Both gum disease and decay also increase the risk of bad breath. Are you starting to see why I think good oral health could perhaps lead to a better sex life?
Clearly, there are lots of important reasons why we should ensure good oral health, so here’s eight top tips on how to give oral health a boost!
1. Brushing and toothpaste
The current advice suggests we should be brushing everyday using a toothpaste containing fluoride (1350 – 1500 ppm fluoride – this can be found on the back of toothpaste tubes). This should be done last thing at night and on one other occasion, usually first thing in the morning. After brushing, we should spit out the toothpaste but not rinse; this ensures the fluoride is able to stay on the tooth surface to help protect it. Research has shown that electric toothbrushes are superior to normal manual brushes – but distribution is critical! Make sure you are cleaning all of the surfaces of the teeth whatever brush you choose to use. The current advice is to replace your toothbrush/electric toothbrush head every three to four months or sooner if the bristles are frayed.
“Make sure you are cleaning all of the surfaces of the teeth whatever brush you choose to use.”
2. Brushing before or after breakfast?
One of the most common questions I am asked by my patients is whether to brush before or after breakfast. When we eat breakfast, particularly if we have acidic drinks such as fresh fruit juice, the food/drink softens the outside layer of the teeth. If we brush our teeth immediately after breakfast, we remove some of this softened layer which can increase tooth wear. Ideally, we would wait around 30 minutes after breakfast before brushing our teeth – this allows the tooth time to re-harden. If we are not able to wait this length of time, as many of us can’t in the morning rush, my advice would be to brush before breakfast.
3. To floss or not to floss
Cleaning in between teeth (interdental cleaning) is absolutely essential, not only when we have food stuck, but also to remove bacteria. This should be done daily. If we’re not cleaning in between teeth, then we are missing cleaning around 40% of the tooth surfaces. Recently, a number of media stories have claimed that ‘flossing your teeth can be a waste of time’. This is not entirely true. In many cases, spaces between teeth are large enough to allow us to use an interdental brush e.g. a TePe brush. Though these brushes range in size, from about 0.4 to 1.5mm in size, where even the smallest brushes will not fit, floss can be an excellent substitute. This problem is a common one for many people, particularly on the lower front teeth and where teeth are crowded or wonky.
“If we’re not cleaning in between teeth, then we are missing cleaning around 40% of the tooth surfaces.”
Using a mouthwash can be a good extra to help improve oral health, but it is not a substitute for good brushing and interdental cleaning! Mouthwashes are particularly effective if they contain fluoride and if they are used at a different time of the day to brushing.
A diet low in sugar and acids is vital in ensuring good oral health. Sugar and acid intakes should be limited ideally to around three times a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. In between these meals, we should try and keep snacking to a minimum. Each episode of snacking results in a sugar attack which will increase the risk of decay and tooth wear. Therefore, between meals, we should ideally drink milk and/or water. Ideally, we should also minimise sweet things within our diets, but if they are desired fizzy/sugary drinks and sweets/chocolate should be eaten straight after another meal. No eating or drinking, besides water, should be carried out following the evening tooth brushing.
“Ideally, we should also minimise sweet things within our diets, but if they are desired fizzy/sugary drinks and sweets/chocolate should be eaten straight after another meal.”
As of 2016, the UK Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines for both men and women are to limit alcohol intake to no more than 14 units of alcohol per week. If 14 units of alcohol a week are consumed, it is best to spread this intake over 3+ days. Alcohol, depending on which alcohol/mixers are consumed, can increase the risk of decay, tooth wear and oral cancer.
|Some Examples of Units of Alcohol|
|25ml spirit at 40% alcohol||1 unit|
|½ pint of beer/lager at 3.5% alcohol||1 unit|
|125mls wine at 9% alcohol||1.6 units|
Smoking is one of the biggest causes of death and illness in the UK and it has been linked to more than 50 serious health conditions including: heart disease, stroke, many forms of cancer and also gum disease and staining of the teeth. Smoking should be stopped as soon as possible; there are many pathways available to help you stop smoking.
8. Regular visits to the dentist
The importance of regular dental check-ups cannot be underestimated. The dentist will assess the mouth and detect any current or potential problems. As part of a normal examination, all of the mouth will be checked for any signs of oral cancer, gum disease, tooth decay and tooth wear. This is done through looking around the mouth and taking dental x-rays, where needed. Any treatment required is usually more straight-forward and cheaper if conditions are detected early and prevented from deteriorating. The dentist also plays a key role in providing advice on prevention and instructing in the best ways to ensure good oral health.
The importance of ensuring good oral health has been discussed. As easy as the advice given is to follow, it’s just as easy not to do so! So, get motivated and follow my tips to improve your oral health, general health and maybe even your sex life!
“Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going”
– Jim Rohn
“Every tooth in a man’s head is more valuable than a diamond”
– Miguel de Cervantes
“You don’t have to brush all of your teeth, just the ones you want to keep”