Making teeth look good
- Floss and brush teeth at least twice a day (two minutes is the recommended time). If manual brushing tires you, use an electronic toothbrush.
- After brushing your teeth, spend a few extra minutes to clean your tongue and massage your gums.
- Buy toothpaste with fluoride in it.
- Stay hydrated – good saliva conditions can control bacteria activity. Alcohol and caffeine drinks are diuretics that lower saliva’s protective functions.
- Avoid smoking as well as sugary and acidic foods and drinks (use a straw for minimal contact with teeth).
- Avoid extreme temperatures closely following one another, e.g. hot coffee followed by cold ice cream, when having a meal. These changes cause teeth to rapidly expand and contract, contributing to tiny cracks that promote tooth decay.
- See your dentist at least twice a year.
- Cover your toothbrush to keep away germs and air-borne viruses; toss out your toothbrush when your cold or flu virus has run its course to prevent re-infection.
- Tooth decay is the most contagious oral disease in the world that can be passed from one person to another through saliva by sharing food, kissing or anything else that might transmit saliva.
- Saliva contains minerals such as fluoride, calcium and phosphate that help to destroy bacteria and re-mineralise damaged tooth enamel.
- Drinking lots of water not only flushes toxins from the body, it also neutralises harmful acids in the mouth.
- One of the best ways to clean your teeth is to eat fresh fruit and raw vegetables.
To rinse or not to rinse?
Mouthwash can fight everything from cavities to tartar to plaque – or can it? Recently the United States Food and Drug Administration noted that while sodium fluoride is effective in preventing cavities, there is no evidence that it can remove plaque or prevent gum disease.
Active ingredients in mouthwash include sodium fluoride, which helps fight cavities and strengthens enamel surfaces. The bottom line? Mouthwash is a useful addition to oral hygiene but it cannot replace regular brushing and flossing. If one is able to brush and floss effectively, a mouthwash is not an absolute essential.
Teeth and your health
Just by looking at your teeth, a doctor can tell what the state of your health is. Someone with tooth decay and cavities is probably eating too many sugary foods and therefore is at risk of obesity. The same foods contributing to tooth decay also increase your blood sugar level drastically, raising your risk of type 2 diabetes, which is associated with an unhealthy lifestyle.
By the same token, a person with a tendency towards obesity and type 2 diabetes is also at risk of cardiovascular disease. The doctor can also tell if you are at risk of lung cancer. The telltale signs are tooth discolouration, bleeding gums and cavities, which show that you are a heavy smoker.
The National Dental Centre (NDC) of Singapore is one of the five National Specialty Centres under SingHealth.