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Take care of your teeth and gums

Here's how you and your children can have healthy teeth and keep trips to the dentist to a minimum.

Brush your teeth twice a day

Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day for about two minutes last thing at night before you go to bed and on one other occasion every day to help keep your teeth and mouth healthy.

Plaque is a film of bacteria that coats your teeth if you don't brush them properly. It contributes to gum disease and tooth decay.

Tooth brushing stops plaque building up. Try to make sure you brush every surface of all your teeth.

Floss between your teeth

You're advised to use interdental brushes in addition to brushing as part of your daily oral health routine from the age of 12.

Some people may not have large enough spaces in between their teeth to use an interdental brush, so flossing can be a useful alternative.

Don't be too aggressive with the floss, you risk harming your gums. The main action of flossing is a firm but gentle scraping of the tooth from the top down.

Cut down on sugar

Sugar is one of the main causes of tooth decay. 

To prevent tooth decay, reduce the amount of food and drinks you have that contain free sugars – such as sweets, chocolates, cakes, biscuits, sugary breakfast cereals, jams, honey, fruit smoothies and dried fruit – and limit them to mealtimes.

The sugars found naturally in fruit and vegetables are less likely to cause tooth decay, because they are contained within the structure. But when fruit and vegetables are juiced or blended into a smoothie, the sugars are released. Once released, these sugars can damage teeth.

Limit the amount of fruit juice and smoothies you drink to a maximum of 150ml (a small glass) in total per day, and drink it with meals to reduce the risk of tooth decay.

Brush baby teeth as soon as they come through

You can start brushing your baby's teeth as soon as they start to come through. Use a baby toothbrush with a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste.

Don't worry if you don't manage to brush much at first. The important thing is to get your baby used to brushing their teeth as part of their daily routine. You can help by setting a good example and letting them see you brushing your own teeth.

Get children into a teeth cleaning routine

A regular teeth-cleaning routine is essential for good dental health.

Straighten crooked teeth with braces

The purpose of orthodontic treatment is to make the best of your teeth.

This includes straightening your teeth so you're able to care for your teeth and gums more easily, and improving your bite so you can eat more comfortably. And your smile will benefit, too.

Treatment almost always involves using braces to straighten crooked, crowded or protruding teeth, close gaps between teeth, and correct the bite so the top and bottom teeth meet when the mouth is closed.

Treatment usually lasts from 18 months to 2 years, and visits to the orthodontist are needed every 6 to 8 weeks.

Have regular dental check ups

Have regular check-ups with your dentist. Don't put off going for a check-up. Detecting problems early can mean they're easier to treat. If problems are not treated, they may lead to damage that is harder, or even impossible, to repair.

You may assume you should have a dental check-up every six months, but some people may not need to go so often and others may need more frequent checks.

Your dentist will suggest when you should have your next check-up based on how good your oral health is.

The time between check-ups can vary from three months to two years, depending on how healthy your teeth and gums are and your risk of future problems.

Find your nearest dentist (internal link)

Don't delay with dental treatments

There are a wide range of dental treatments available. Some, such as fillings and root canal treatment, are readily available on the NHS. Others, such as cosmetic dentistry, are only available on the NHS in certain circumstances.

For information on who can get free dentistry, how to find an NHS dentist and what to expect from your dentist, visit the NHS website (external link).

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