10 surprising dos and don’ts of good dental health

Want to keep your teeth and gums super healthy? There’s more to it than just avoiding sugar and brushing your teeth regularly.

Brush twice a day, floss, limit sugar intake and visit the dentist once or twice a year: these are the cornerstone habits of good dental health that we learn from a young age.

“The benefit of maintaining these guidelines is to retain your teeth through your life span, which is so important,” says Dr Mikaela Chinotti, of the Australian Dental Association.

But there are many other equally important ways to keep your gums and teeth in peak form, says Dr Chinotti.

And dental surgeon Dr Rachel Freudmann says there are many habits people don’t realise are damaging their teeth.

“Unfortunately some healthy eating diets – such as snacking throughout the day – can be detrimental to your teeth,” says Dr Freudmann, of Dendy Village Dental in Melbourne.

So what are some of the lesser-known things to do and avoid for healthy teeth and gums?

Do: Flush out remnants of fizzy and acidic drinks

Sparkling water makers are one of the appliances of the moment, but Dr Freudmann cautions any bubbly drink reduces the pH to make it more acidic, softening tooth enamel.

Hot water and lemon, kombucha or apple cider vinegar drinks can have the same effect.

The best antidote is to follow these drinks with a glass of clear water and avoid brushing your teeth for at least 30 minutes because that will add to enamel erosion.

Don’t: Rinse after brushing your teeth

Just spit out the toothpaste, says Dr Chinotti – this will leave a film of protective ingredients such as fluoride on your teeth, rather than removing it with water.

Do: Start flossing from childhood

Parents should start flossing their children’s teeth as soon as they have two teeth growing next to each other.

Dr Chinotti says while this sounds overwhelming when it’s difficult enough to brush little teeth, it’s best to start good habits early.

Don’t: Let kids go it alone when brushing teeth

Dr Freudmann says younger kids don’t yet have the motor skills to master the small circular movements needed for brushing, so it’s best to supervise them until they are about eight years old.

Do: Use straws for sugary drinks

Using a straw for strong-coloured, sugary drinks will limit the amount of stain affecting tooth enamel and help teeth stay strong.

Dr Freudmann says straws also help your mouth clear bacteria and acid from your teeth.

Don’t: Snack throughout the day

Teeth cope best with up to four meals a day – breakfast, lunch, dinner and one snack, combined with two brushes with a fluoride toothpaste.

Dr Freudmann says eating small amounts throughout the day can cause cavities because the enamel doesn’t have time to recover.

Do: Eat nuts and cheese for dessert

Nuts and cheese are good choices to finish a meal because they are alkaline, which Dr Freudmann says will help protect the enamel from the acidic attack caused by a meal.

Don’t: Go overboard on whitening toothpaste

While using whitening toothpaste occasionally won’t be harmful, it is abrasive so does gradually wear down the enamel if overused. This can lead to sensitivity and then darker dentine showing through, says Dr Freudmann.

Do: Breathe through your nose

It’s widely recommended to breathe through your nose rather than your mouth, particularly as children, because it can actually affect the shape of your face. Dr Chinotti says people who breathe through their mouth tend to end up with a longer face profile.

Don’t: Brush too hard

Ideally you should brush your teeth twice a day, morning and night, say our experts.

It should be the last thing you do before you go to sleep, with no drinks afterwards.

But Dr Chinotti says there’s no need to press too hard on the brush. In fact, it could be damaging.

Written by Catherine Lambert.