How to keep your teeth and gums healthy

We spend £800 million a year on dental cleaning products, but still 29 per cent of UK adults do not use toothpaste, 50 per cent don’t use mouthwash and 68 per cent don’t floss.

For good dental health this has to change and Dr Adam Thorne, co-founder of Harley Street Dental Studio, says there are four key product areas that are vital for oral health.

“Use an electric toothbrush and aim it into the tooth gum and use for five seconds on each tooth. Floss or use an inter-dental cleaner to get rid of food between teeth. Use an advanced toothpaste, which helps restore enamel and finally rinse with a mouthwash that is alcohol-free but contains fluoride.”

Some 47 per cent of adults in the UK don’t know how to brush their teeth correctly and four million skip brushing in the morning

Brushing your teeth is, of course, central to good dental health and Dr Uchenna Okoye, clinical director of London Smiling Dental Group, says: “One of the biggest mistakes people tend to make is to brush too hard – it damages gums and may erode enamel on the teeth. Plus, you must change your toothbrush or toothbrush head every three months otherwise it will be less effective at plaque removal.”

Some 47 per cent of adults in the UK don’t even know how to brush their teeth correctly and only 11 per cent brush for the dentist-recommended two minutes, twice each day. And four million UK adults skip brushing their teeth in the morning.

Aesthetic and restorative dentist Dr Mark Hughes says that the timing of when you brush your teeth is just as important as how you brush them. “Brushing is all about removing plaque and not about removing food, so therefore it is best to brush your teeth just before breakfast.”


68 per cent of UK adults don’t floss

Teeth-whitening products are increasingly popular on the high street and one in five who had whitening in the last 12 months did it via at-home whitening kits or at a beauty salon. One in four brides this summer plan to have their teeth whitened before their big day.

Dr Payman Langroudi, clinical director at Enlighten, says: “In terms of teeth whitening, dentists will completely clean teeth first, but when you buy off the shelf you will have existing stains to deal with before the teeth can be lightened.”

But Dr Ayee-Marie McGrath, director of Knightsbridge Dental Care, says we can trust high street products. “Firstly, all high street retail and pharmaceutical shop-bought dental products can be trusted to be safe and harmless due to rigorous testing and compliance with the drug and cosmetic standards agencies. However, this does not mean all products are equal or effective. There are at-home whitening kits available, but these are not professional products and can be abrasive.”

Around 53 per cent of UK adults suffer with gum disease and Elaine Tiling, a member of the British Society of Dental Hygiene and TePe’s head of clinical education, says this can be prevented simply by cleaning between teeth. “Standard brushing only cleans 60 per cent of the tooth’s surface, whereas cleaning between teeth, with inter-dental brushes, helps prevent gum inflammation, cavities and bad breath.”

Dr Tim Bradstock-Smith, head dentist at the London Smile Clinic, also recommends inter-dental cleansers. “There are several products, which stop plaque building up in-between the teeth, plus investing in a high-quality toothbrush and using mouthwash will help fight plaque and signs of decay.”

Technology, such as the new ultrasonic electric toothbrushes and flossers, are being developed all the time and this is good news for healthy mouths. Manoj Vijay, a director at Evodental, is working with new technology that is enhancing dental implant techniques and performance, such as 3D printing.

Men and women's dental health stats

He says: “Sonic toothbrushes promote bone growth because of the pulses and we encourage that to our patients. These toothbrushes vibrate plaque whereas the old manual toothbrushes caused more damage.”

Another innovative development is a toothpaste and serum to halt acid erosion by rehardening the soft enamel on the surface of teeth. This is the first high street product to do this and it took nine years of research. Regenerate, developed by Unilever with academic dentists in universities around world, rebuilds and reconstitutes the enamel surface on a microscopic level.


Older people and oral healthcare

The UK population is ageing, and increased life expectancy and mortality, along with a falling birth rate, means the demands for dental care in the older age group will increase. By 2020 the proportion of people aged 65 and above is expected to be 18.9 per cent of the population.

At this age teeth have been subjected to more wear and tear and enamel erosion, plus underlying conditions, such as diabetes, blood pressure and digestive disorders, can cause gum and teeth issues.

The move in technology to electric toothbrushes and flossers is particularly useful for people with limited movement, such as disabled or elderly people, who often find using a manual toothbrush does not allow them to clean thoroughly.

Dr Mark Hughes, an aesthetic and restorative dentist, says: “We see a lot of older patients and that part of the population have relied on NHS dentistry. Luckily there is no excuse anymore to have all your teeth pulled out. We replace wear and tear and use bonding, a filling material, so teeth can be naturally restored.”