When you brush your teeth, even for the recommended two minutes, you’re still not cleaning a huge 40 per cent of your gnashers. ‘The areas between your teeth are completely missed,’ explains Elaine Tilling, head of clinical education at dental care brand TePe. ‘So, in addition to regular tooth brushing, it is essential to clean between your teeth using floss or an interdental brush,’ she explains. ‘Interdental brushes are a simple and effective way to disrupt and remove the plaque build-up and food debris trapped between teeth, which, if left, can lead to gum disease.’
Today kicks off the start of National Smile Month – so what do you do to ensure your pearly whites stay shiny? Perhaps you’re one of the 42 per cent of adults who use just a toothbrush and toothpaste each day to help keep their teeth in good nick, or one of the 31 per cent who skips brushing altogether and simply has a big swig of mouthwash. Or, you could fall into the bracket of the one in 10 people who forget to brush their teeth every day. Either way, however well you believe you clean your teeth, chances are you could be doing it better – and for far more important reasons than just keeping your smile photo-friendly.
READ MORE: Your 5-step plan for pearly white teeth
And, while you may think that gum disease doesn’t sound too serious, it can actually have a huge impact on your entire body. ‘Bacteria present in infected gums (gum disease) can be carried throughout your blood stream, altering your body’s ability to protect itself and making you more susceptible to disease,’ Tilling explains. In fact, increasing numbers of research are indicating a link between this and conditions such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes – concerns that, in any other instance, would certainly make us sit up and take notice. Gum disease is a type of inflammation, and is another reason why it is being linked to more ‘serious’ inflammatory diseases. ‘The links with increased likelihood of stroke and other inflammatory conditions are because of the shared inflammation pathway,’ Tilling says.
While 10-15 per cent of us are genetically unable to switch off inflammation, the rest of us can do something to get rid of our gum disease. It tends to kick in when we hit our late 20s (though if you’re younger than that it’s no excuse to have a poor oral health routine) and it’s estimated that up to 80 per cent of us have it to some degree. While it’s not always visible, red or bleeding gums are two of the first signs that you’ll be able to see – and you shouldn’t get either of these even if you just brush a bit too hard; it means there’s more of an underlying problem. However, ‘bleeding gums can be resolved in as little as three days by brushing for the recommended two minutes twice daily and adding interdental cleaning to your daily routine,’ Tilling reveals. Whether you have gum disease or not, follow Tilling’s expert tips on how to make sure it stays away – and keep more than just your mouth healthy in the long run.
1, ‘Brush teeth twice a-day using fluoride toothpaste with an electric or manual brush, depending on your preference, and then clean in between teeth using either floss or an interdental brush,’ says Tilling. This new addition to your routine doesn’t have to cost a lot either; a huge 50 metre roll of floss costs from £1.50, while TePe’s nifty, easy-to-hold Interdental Brushes cost from £3 a pack.
2, Make sure you brush for two minutes – and that’s two actual minutes. ‘Research shows most people’s minute is really only 48 seconds!’ Tilling states. That extra 24 seconds is nothing out of your day, so make sure it’s added in so your teeth get the most out of your routine.
3, See your dentist regularly – at least once a year. It sounds like a no-brainer, but 27 per cent of adults only visit if they have a problem.
4, Simple lifestyle and diet changes can also help you reduce your risk of gum disease, too. ‘Not smoking and reducing alcohol and sugar consumption can help keep your mouth healthy,’ says Tilling.