Caring for your teeth and gums
Do you care for your teeth properly? More often than not oral hygiene is overlooked. These tips will help you get on top of your oral hygiene, with advice on when to brush to natural solutions and remedies to ensure your teeth and gums are properly cared for.
Don't rush to brush
Always wait at least 20 minutes – ideally an hour – after you've eaten before brushing your teeth.
During this time the mouth is still producing saliva, the body's own mouthwash, which helps to keep the mouth free from germs.
If you clean your teeth immediately after a meal, you risk losing these important benefits.
Blast with water and air
Even efficient brushing reaches only 60 per cent of the tooth surface, which is why flossing (or inter-dental brushing) is essential.
There's nothing new about flossing – evidence exists of it in human remains over 2,000 years old.
The latest device for cleaning between the teeth fires bursts of air and water, removing nearly 100 per cent more plaque than brushing alone.
Try the Philips Sonicare Airfloss device, it cleans your entire mouth in just 30 seconds. Reader’s Digest has an exclusive offer with Philips which gives you 18% off the Airfloss. Click here and use the code JUL1READ upon purchase.
Set a timer
You need to brush your teeth for 2 minutes to ensure that your mouth is properly clean. But one UK survey estimated that the average brushing time is just 45 seconds.
Using an electric toothbrush cleans up to 50 per cent more efficiently than manual brushing.
Look for an electric toothbrush that makes 40,000 brush strokes a minute and has a built-in 2-minute timer. ‘Sonic’ brushes provide additional cleaning by agitating the mucus around the teeth, which dislodges more dental plaque.
Chew gum to combat infection
Chewing gum, especially after a meal, helps oral health by increasing saliva production. It's most effective if the gum contains xylitol or birch sugar, which can be safely ingested by children.
Xylitol suppresses the action of Streptococcus mutans, one of the chief bacterial culprits behind tooth decay, and helps to repair damaged tooth enamel.
Wipe your baby's teeth
To give your baby's teeth the best possible start, clean them by rubbing with xylitol wipes. This has been shown to significantly reduce the levels of bacteria in a baby's mouth.
Natural ways to care for your teeth:
Clean with salt
This traditional tooth-brushing method works because salt is highly effective for killing the plaque-forming bacteria that cause gum disease.
Just mix the salt into a paste with a little water, dip in your brush, and get to work. Follow up by brushing with regular toothpaste.
An alternative way of giving your mouth the antibacterial benefits of salt is to dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in a small glass of warm water and use this mixture as a daily mouthwash.
Try lemon and sage
Mix the mashed flesh of a lemon with 1 teaspoon of chopped sage leaves. Add ½ teaspoon of cinnamon oil and 1 teaspoon of orris root powder, then stir in 1 tablespoon of distilled water to make a thick paste.
Rub this mixture onto the teeth and gums to help to remove brown stains from teeth and to discourage oral bacteria, which inflame and weaken the gums.
Any unused paste will keep for up to 12 months if sealed in a sterilised jar.
Sip a daily mug of green tea and improve your oral health
Researchers in Japan studying men between the ages of 49 and 59 found that those who drank the most green tea showed the fewest symptoms of gum disease.
The benefit of green tea is thought to be due to the action of an antioxidant it contains called catechin, which has been shown to reduce the inflammatory effects of oral bacteria.
The roots of liquorice plants contain the compounds licoricidin and licorisoflavan A, both of which are effective in killing the bacteria responsible for causing dental cavities and gum disease. You can get the benefits of this natural treatment by having a cup of liquorice infusion twice a day.
Put 1–2 teaspoons of the powdered root in boiling water. Leave to brew for 10 minutes, then strain and drink. If you have high blood pressure, check with your doctor before drinking this infusion regularly.
Choose fruit at mealtimes
Fruit is an essential part of everyone's diet because it provides vital nutrients and fibre – but you should try to eat it mainly at mealtimes and avoid it between meals.
Although the ‘intrinsic’ sugars found in fruit are less directly harmful to your teeth than the refined sugars found in processed foods, they still provide food for the acid-producing bacteria that cause plaque and gum disease. And fruit also contains acid, which can start to wear away tooth enamel if too much is eaten between meals.
Treating tooth trouble
Mix two drops of clove essential oil with at least 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and rub this into the gums (test it on yourself first to make sure it is not too strong).
Rub the gums with one or two drops of chamomile oil up to twice a day, using a wet cotton bud.
Check the peroxide level If you decide to whiten your teeth with a home kit, make sure you check the level of hydrogen peroxide carefully – it shouldn't be more than 0.1 per cent. Levels higher than this can aggravate gum disease, make the teeth ultra sensitive to heat and cold and, at high levels, even cause chemical burns in the mouth. Always take professional advice from a dentist before using any home treatment for tooth-whitening.
Guard against grinding If you grind your teeth at night, you may be doing more than interrupting your partner's sleep.
Tooth grinding, or bruxism, can wear down and fracture teeth, bring on headaches, migraines and tinnitus, and may even cause disorders of the jaw joints.
The most common causes are stress, anxiety, smoking and alcohol, but grinding can also result from an abnormal alignment of the teeth and jaw, all of which need expert attention.
Your dentist may advise you to wear a night guard to protect your teeth or a ‘mandibular advancement device’, which holds the lower jaw and tongue forward. Behavioural therapy and hypnosis to combat stress and anxiety have also proved successful in helping to cure the problem.
Get help from the kitchen cupboard To relieve toothache while waiting to see a dentist, apply one of the following tried and trusted home remedies:
- Cloves Apply clove oil or, if this is not available, use whole cloves. Put a few in your mouth, allow them to soften and then bruise them between your back teeth to release their oil. Hold the softened cloves against the painful tooth for up to 30 minutes or until the pain has eased.
- Ginger and cayenne Mix powdered ginger, cayenne pepper with a little water to form a paste. Dab this it on with a ball of cotton wool.
- Cabbage leaves Make a compress from bruised savoy cabbage leaves (from which the tough central stems have been removed) wrapped in a linen bag. Hold this against the cheek over the area of the painful tooth for as long as you like.
Get a tonsil check if your child grinds his or her teeth at night. The problem affects at least one in five children under 11, disturbing sleep and making behavioural problems worse. For reasons that are not fully understood, enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids often occur alongside tooth-grinding, so be sure to bring this problem to the attention of your doctor.
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