James Helliwell highlights some important facts about looking after your oral health.

‘You likely know a few important things about caring for your teeth: that your dental health is linked to your overall wellbeing, and that you need to switch toothbrushes every four to six weeks in order to prevent gingivitis or other bacterial diseases. But a lot of people still have a few things to learn about how to keep their teeth pearly white. – Tiger Smile Dental – Oral Health Specialists in LA

Your teeth’s best friend is your saliva – not your toothbrush

You certainly love the magic your toothbrush and a strand of floss works on your teeth; but your teeth’s first line of defence against tooth decay is your saliva. Saliva not only washes away food residue in your mouth, it contains antibacterial properties, which neutralises acids that damage your enamel and helps repair and restore your teeth.

So, if your mouth is dry (which is often caused by certain medications), it can make bacteria grow faster. A good precaution is to keep a bottle of water handy.

There are about 300 types of bacteria in your mouth

The bacteria that causes tooth decay is called Streptococcus mutans, and does so by feeding on and converting the sugar from your food and drinks into acids that eat away at your enamel. But plaque has millions of bacteria, which is made up of 200 to 300 different types.

Plaque can grow on your teeth while you’re sleeping

The more times you eat during the day without brushing your teeth in-between, the more likely you will have tooth decay. But even though you don’t eat in your sleep, plaque slowly coats your teeth at night. This is why even if your teeth look and feel sparkly white in the morning, you still have to brush them to remove the bacteria that grew at night and then at least one other time during the day to keep away tooth decay.

Actually, this white and sticky substance (plaque) is constantly growing, and if you don’t constantly get rid of it by brushing and flossing, it could harden and develop into tartar, which you’ll need your dentist to help remove.

Brushing too hard can damage your gum

You can’t get your teeth cleaner and whiter by brushing too hard. Actually, it can cause you more damage than good because it wears away the surface of your gums and teeth – pretty much like the effect sandpaper has on wood. As we grow older, our gums and teeth become a little tender from wear and tear, so applying abrasive force on them can end up exposing your sensitive roots. Simply use a soft toothbrush and brush in gentle circles as you get close to the gums.

A chipped tooth can expose you to tooth decay

A chipped tooth exposes the dentine, a softer bone-like tissue covering the root. Unlike the enamel, which protects the tooth against decay, the dentine will decay rapidly when bacteria gets inside the chipped side of the tooth. So if there’s a chip in your teeth, get it fixed right away!

Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic childhood diseases

A child is five times more likely to have tooth decay than asthma. Tooth decay is regarded as a chronic childhood disease because poor dental hygiene at a tender age can easily lead to tooth decay, gum diseases, and complexities with the bone and tissue at a later age. So the earlier you expose your kids to good oral care, the more you secure their future dental and overall health.

Fluoride is good, but…

Everyone knows fluoride helps in fighting tooth decay, but how much fluoride is too much? Yes, it has been proven that drinking fluoridated water and using fluoride toothpaste or rinses can lower the risk of tooth decay by as much as 40%, but this naturally occurring mineral mustn’t be taken for granted.

Because of the ever-increasing sources of fluoride, in 2010 the Department of Health and Human Services in the US recommended that fluoride content in community water be reduced to 0.7 milligrams per litre, from a previous range of between 0.7 and 1.2 milligrams.