Healthy, White Teeth: Your Ultimate Guide
Be honest, when was the last time you went to the dentist?
If it wasn't in the past two years shame on you (though really I'm not judging, until this week my most recent denist visit was an embarrassing seven years ago) - how can you expect beautiful teeth if you don't take care of them?
If you want pearly whites, the place to start is healthy gums and teeth and sweet smelling breath. And the number one piece of advice from dentists to achieve this is to visit them regularly.
And though they're admittedly rather biased, when it comes to the hidden depths of tooth decay, we'll have to trust them on this one. You can't X-Ray your own jaw.
But aside from checking in with an expert every now and then, your at-home tooth care is the key to ensuring your teeth and gums are healthy - the number one priority in getting a perfect smile.
First up, let's get brushing down:
Have you been brushing wrong all these years?
1. You should brush for two whole minutes (most people manage 45 seconds), twice a day.
2. Don't scrub, be gentle.
"Vigorous brushing can cause receding gums but plaque is soft and gentle strokes will remove it easily so you don't need to press too hard," explains dentist Sia Mirfendereski. "Be particularly careful after eating or drinking something like orange juice, which is acidic and can harm the enamel."
3. Brush before breakfast and never straight after eating.
4. Electric is best. Any toothbrush will do the job but it's all about your manual skills. If you can afford one, the fancy sonic toothbrushes make it more likely that you'll clean properly. Even a cheaper battery-powered one can make a difference.
5. Use fluoride toothpaste. Dentists are fairly unanimous on this one. If you have qualms about it, do your research. There are non-fluoride toothpastes out there but no ingredients have been found to be as effective for targeting tooth decay.
As Justin Timberlake has told us, we should all floss. It gets to the difficult-to-reach places between the teeth, getting rid of the plaque your toothbrush misses and cleaning the gums.
Every day is great but if you don't have time, at least aim for a good floss three times a week.
Don't worry if it bleeds at the start, that just shows it's starting to work. But if you still have bleeding after a week or two, talk to your dentist as it could be a sign of gum disease.
Let's talk about sugar
It's not actually how much sugar you eat, it's how often you eat it that causes problems for your teeth. Regularly coating them in sugar will increase your chances of rotting and decaying teeth - not very attractive.
"Bacteria in your mouth use sugar as a form of energy - they multiply in size and the plaque grows in size and thickness," explains Mirfendereski. "So you're better off eating your sugar in one go if you're going to have it at all."
Everyone wants white teeth and there are plenty of at-home techniques touted about. But Mirfendereski warns that real teeth whitening can only be done safely by a dentist.
However, whitening toothpastes and even baking powder can make a small difference if your teeth aren't too dark in the first place and they're good for maintaining already-sparkling teeth.
Some experts also recommend avoiding any foods that would dye your clothes (red wine, tea etc.).
The best way to keep them white, though, is looking after them.
If you have had them whitened, go with your recommended toothpaste to keep them that way. Mirfendereski suggests brushing with a stain inhibiting toothpaste such as Enlighten's Evo White toothpaste.
Do you grind your teeth?
This is a problem. Not only can it give you headaches and damage your teeth, it also adds to receding gums and all-out damage in your mouth. It's often a stress-related habit so if you know you do it, don't just ignore it.
Try stress-reduction techniques or talk to your dentist about getting a mouth guard to wear at night.
This sounds like something you'd worry about later in life but it's not just age that causes your gums to wear back. I was shocked to hear that for someone under 30, my gums weren't as full as one might expect.
Brushing too hard can be the cause of this premature recession, leaving delicate teeth susceptible to sensitivity and decay. If you already have recession the best you can do is to ensure it doesn't get worse.
There are professional dental treatments available to protect the teeth but even before trying them, you need to switch your brushing style and make sure you're not scrubbing away at your gums too heavily. If you're really concerned, switch to a softer toothbrush.
Though your tongue is generally self-cleaning, it can get clogged up with bacteria if you don't look after it. This is one of the biggest causes of bad breath and if you have bacteria sitting on your tongue, it's going to affect your teeth and potentially cause decay.
Try using a tongue-scraper, but don't press too hard - there's no need. A few gentle swipes should do the job and if you do struggle with bad breath, look for a good mouthwash.
Whether 'yellow is a sign of strong teeth' as my dad used to tell me is true or not, it's important to remember that with everything our teeth go through, it's impossible for them to stay perfectly white forever.
Following this guide will keep them healthy but don't forget that pretty much every celebrity and model you see has had their teeth whitened - so it's not an accurate reflection of 'normal', and no-one's comparing your gnashers to Rylan's dazzlers.
If you're keen to get your teeth whitened, speak to a professional and beware heavy-duty at-home treatments that can leave you with damaged or sensitive teeth.