National Smile Month (16th May – 16th June) is an oral health awareness raising event held every year here in the UK. As readers of this blog will know, I sometimes feel like I’m on a one-man mission to raise awareness of gum disease, so it’s wonderful to see other organisations and dental practices getting involved.
National Smile Month – Key Messages
During National Smile Month dentists and healthcare professionals are doing their best to communicate the following three key messages for good oral health to children and adults:
- Brush your teeth last thing at night and on at least one other occasion with a fluoride toothpaste.
- Cut down on how often you have sugary foods and drinks.
- Visit your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend.
It really is that simple, and as well as reducing dental cavities, gum disease and other chronic medical conditions, good oral care has the added benefit of making us smile!
The cosmetic impact of poor oral hygiene should not be underestimated. It affects our confidence and relationships, it can impact on how successful we are in our careers, and cause problems with eating and speaking.
Without spelling it out too graphically, do you want your smile to be affected by any of these issues?
Bad breath: Halitosis not only makes those around us recoil if they get a whiff, it can also make them respect us less. For those in relationships, or who want to be in a relationship, bad breath can also have an adverse affect for obvious reasons. It is also one of the first signs of gum disease, an early indication that you need to take action.
Yellow teeth: Yellowing teeth is often a sign of aging, but poor oral hygiene that results in a build up of plaque and tartar can also contribute to the discolouration of teeth. Smokers are particularly affected by staining and are also more at risk of gum disease.
Red, inflamed gums: Gingivitis caused be the inadequate removal of plaque from teeth at the gum line, causes red and inflamed gums. Although they may not be as obvious to other people as they are to you, they can make you feel very self-conscious and really knock your confidence.
Tooth loss: Gaps in your smile because of tooth loss will also make you feel self-conscious, many people avoid smiling, laughing, even talking because of this – particularly while they’re in the process of having treatment to replace missing teeth. While tooth replacement technology has advanced in recent years, most people would prefer to have their own teeth.
The frustrating thing for dental professionals is that in most cases these unpleasant conditions can be avoided by following simple advice – brush regularly, limit your sugar intake and visit your dentist regularly.
Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail:
- Regular brushing: Advice from dentists is to brush twice a day for at least two minutes each time using a toothpaste containing fluoride. However, remember that your teeth have 5 surfaces – front, back, top and two sides – you need to brush them all. This is why using floss and interdentals regularly will ensure a more thorough clean and remove food and bacteria from in between the teeth. I would also recommend using a GumSaver brush to remove the bacteria from below the gum line and in hard to reach places, reducing the build up of plaque that leads to bad breath, bleeding gums, and gingivitis (gum disease).
- Limit the amount of sugar you consume: Bacteria in your mouth feeds off sugar and creates harmful acids that cause cavities and plaque, which can then lead to gum disease. While we are finally seeing some progress towards a ‘sugar tax’ in 2018, the amount of sugar we consume (often unknowingly) is a significant problem. Sweets and soft drinks are the main culprits when looking at the impact of sugar on our oral health, but don’t think substituting dried fruit and juice is the answer. Fruit sugars can also cause tooth decay, and dried fruit can be just as sticky and difficult to remove from teeth as a toffee. The solution is to snack on fresh fruit and vegetables in between meals, and consume (in moderation) sugary food and drinks at mealtimes.
- Visit your dentist: Regular check ups will help prevent, diagnose and treat tooth decay and gum disease. Not only will your dentist be able spot any problems, offer preventative advice and treatment, but that 6 monthly check up is a excellent reminder to keep on top of your oral care. Dentists also have a wealth of knowledge that can help you look after your teeth and gums between visits. Ask them about good brushing techniques, most will be happy to demonstrate or advise you on your technique. They can also offer you support and advice for controlling your sugar intake, stopping smoking and other lifestyle choices that affect your oral health.
By following these three key messages you can dramatically improve your dental health and hygiene, but if you need help there’s plenty available. In the first instance you can post a question here or have a look at some of the other posts on this blog. Or you can find lots of support online such as on the Oral Health Foundation website including details of their helpline here. Of course, your dentist is also available to answer your questions and if you are worried about your oral health don’t wait for your next check up, book an appointment straightaway.