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Healthy Teeth


healthy teethHealthy teeth are something that we all aspire to.  After all, we all know the value of a beautiful, healthy smile.  But how do we ensure that our teeth are as healthy as they can be?  Read on to learn more.

Sugar and its Effects on Teeth

The bacteria in your mouth converts sugar to acid.  The acid erodes the enamel of the teeth, eventually leading to decay.  It is not the amount of sugar that you eat, but the amount of time that it remains in contact with your teeth.  It is recommended that soft drinks be limited, as these are especially bad for teeth, due to the acid that it contains.  The acids cause erosion of the teeth.

It does not matter what type of sugar you eat, as the bacteria in your mouth is not able to distinguish between different kinds.  It could be sugar from an artificial source such as candy or soft drinks, or sugar from natural sources such as fruit or honey.  However, it is best to get sugar from natural sources as these usually contain a lot of water or stimulate production of saliva, both of which minimise the amount of time that sugar remains in contact with the teeth.

Flossing – The Right Way

You should floss your teeth at least once a day.  This is because flossing between the teeth removes the food debris and plaque that cannot be reached by brushing alone.  Plaque causes tooth decay and contributes to gum disease.  Did you know that studies have also shown that flossing helps to prevent heart attack or stroke?

It is important to floss all sides of your teeth, even if there isn’t a tooth next to another one.  Dental professionals are divided on whether it is best to floss before or after brushing.  Since flossing can carry bacteria and food particles below the gum line, it may be better to brush first.  However, flossing first removes the plaque and food debris, allowing the fluoride to get to all surfaces of the teeth when brushing, thus allowing the fluoride to strengthen the teeth.

The Truth about Mouthwash

Mouthwash and mouth rinses can be used for both cosmetic and therapeutic purposes.  Most mouthwashes that are available over the counter temporarily suppress bad breath, refresh the mouth, and can reduce the levels of bacteria in the mouth.  The ingredients in different mouthwashes vary but be aware that alcohol levels may be as high as 26 percent.  Mouthwashes that contain alcohol can produce a burning feeling in the cheeks, teeth, and gums, or may cause intoxication if swallowed.

Therapeutic mouthwashes include any rinse that has been made to help prevent or treat an oral health problem.  For example, anti-plaque rinses treat and prevent excessive buildup of plaque while anti-gingivitis rinses help prevent gum disease.

While mouthwash can be beneficial, be aware that there are studies that have shown that water alone is nearly as effective in reducing plaque and the risk of periodontal disease as mouthwashes designed to prevent these conditions.  Cosmetic mouthwash also only masks bad breath, it does not eliminate it.

Sugarfree Gum and Teeth

Saliva is an important natural protector against tooth decay as it washes away food remains, neutralises plaque acid, and helps to repair the early stages of tooth decay.  One way of producing more saliva is to chew sugarfree gum, as this stimulates saliva production by up to ten times normal.  Sugarfree gum should be chewed as soon as possible after eating for at least 20 minutes. It has been shown to help reduce tooth decay by up to 40 percent.  Research has shown that gum that contains xylitol is the most effective in reducing cavities.

Best Foods for Teeth

It goes without saying that you should minimise the amount of sugary foods or snacks that you consume.  Your mouth depends on overall good nutrition to stay healthy.  Poor nutrition will lead to premature tooth loss, serious periodontal disease, and bad breath.  It is best to follow a standard healthy diet that includes wholegrains, a variety of fruit and vegetables, fish, beans, nuts and seeds, less salt, and less sugar.

The best choices for snack foods, if you must snack, are cheese, chicken or other meats, nuts, or milk.  These can actually protect the tooth enamel as they counteract acidity or by providing the necessary calcium and phosphorus needed for remineralising teeth.  Firm fruits are ok, as even though they contain natural sugars, they are high in water, which dilutes the sugar. The fruit also stimulates saliva productions.  Vegetables are also recommended. 

It is best to drink unsweetened tea, milk or water.  Fluoridated water is the best choice.  Tea also contains fluoride which can strengthen tooth enamel, and milk deters decay.  Limit the amount of sugar-containing drinks.

Foods that are particularly good for your teeth include:

  • celery – produces saliva due to the chewing it requires and it also massages gums and cleans between teeth
  • cheese – balances the mouth’s pH, preserves and rebuilds tooth enamel, and produces saliva
  • green tea – contains catechins that kill the bacteria in your mouth that turn sugar into plaque as well as wiping out the bacteria that cause bad breath
  • kiwis – contain loads of vitamin C, which is necessary for keeping the collagen network in your gums strong
  • onions – contain powerful antibacterial sulfur compounds that kill various types of bacteria
  • parsley – helps to maintain pleasant breath
  • sesame seeds – slough off plaque and help build tooth enamel, and are also high in calcium which helps to preserve the bone around the teeth and gums
  • shiitake mushrooms – a sugar found in shiitake mushrooms stops mouth bacteria from creating plaque
  • wasabi – the substances that make wasabi taste hot also inhibit the growth of cavity-causing bacteria
  • water – keeps gums hydrated, stimulates saliva, and washes away trapped food

Stains and Teeth

Teeth may become stained due to several reasons, including:

  • Food and drinks – these include coffee, tea, cola, wine, and certain fruits and vegetables (such as apples and potatoes).
  • Smoking.
  • Poor dental hygiene – inadequate brushing and flossing to remove plaque and staining substances such as coffee can lead to discolouration.
  • Disease – several diseases that affect enamel and dentin can lead to the tooth staining.
  • Medications – tetracycline and doxycycline are known to stain teeth in children whose teeth are still developing. Mouthwashes that contain chlorhexidine and cetylpyridinium can also stain teeth, as can antihistamines, antipsychotic medications, and antihypertensive medications.
  • Dental materials – some of the materials used in dentistry can result in a gray-black colour being cast over the tooth.
  • Age – as you get older, the outer layer of enamel wears away, revealing the natural yellow colour of dentin.
  • Genetics – some people naturally have brighter or thicker enamel than others.
  • Fluoride – excessive levels of fluoride from water or other sources such as toothpaste can cause staining.
  • Trauma – can cause teeth to discolour.

However, there are ways that you can fix stained teeth.  Limit food and drinks that may cause stains.  There are also natural teeth-whitening toothpastes available but you need to read the label to ensure that they contain only natural herbs and minerals.  Strawberries contain an enzyme that whitens your teeth.  Baking soda has been used for many years to whiten teeth.  Hydrogen peroxide can also help with tooth whitening.  Hydrogen peroxide together with baking soda is one of the best known home remedies for whitening teeth.  Simply make a paste and brush your teeth.  Lemon juice contains a natural bleaching agent that can whiten teeth.  A combination of apple cider vinegar and baking soda may also prove beneficial.  Orange peels and bay leaves may help to whiten teeth.  Crunchy foods are naturally abrasive and act as a whitener when they are eaten regularly.


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