Prevention and caring for my teeth

Why are my teeth so important?

Teeth help us to chew and digest food. They help us to talk, and to pronounce different sounds clearly. Finally, teeth help to give our face its shape. A healthy smile is considered attractive and can contribute to having high self-esteem.

What can go wrong?

Tooth decay can be painful and lead to the need for dental treatment. If tooth decay is not treated, the nerve of the tooth can become infected and die, causing an abscess. This may then need root canal treatment or even for the tooth to be removed. It is very important that you keep up a good routine at home to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

Gum disease is common and, if left untreated will lead to bone loss around the teeth. It may lead to loose teeth and teeth being lost. Gum disease is preventable. It can be treated and kept under control with regular cleaning sessions and check-ups, preventing further problems.

How do I keep my teeth and gums healthy?

It is easy to get your mouth clean and healthy, and keep it that way. A simple routine can help prevent most dental problems:

  • brushing your teeth last thing at night and at least one other time during the day, with a fluoride toothpaste
  • spit out after brushing and do not rinse, so that the fluoride stays on your teeth longer
  • cleaning between the teeth with ‘interdental' brushes or floss at least once a day
  • good eating habits - having sugary foods and drinks less often, and
  • regular dental check-ups.
  • regular dental cleanings with a dentist or hygienist

Although most people brush regularly, many don't clean between their teeth and some people don't have regular dental check-ups. A few small changes in your daily routine can make a big difference in the long term. We can remove any build-up on your teeth and treat any gum disease that has already appeared. But daily dental care is up to you, and the main weapons are the toothbrush, toothpaste and interdental cleaning (cleaning between your teeth with floss or interdental brushes such as tepes).

What is plaque?

Plaque is a thin, sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on your teeth.

How can plaque cause decay?

When you eat foods containing sugars and starches, the bacteria in plaque produce acids, which attack tooth enamel. The stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with your teeth. After constant acid attack, the tooth enamel breaks down forming a hole or cavity.

How can plaque cause gum disease?

If plaque is not removed by brushing, it can harden into something called ‘calculus' - another name for it is 'tartar'. As calculus forms near the gumline, the plaque underneath releases harmful poisons causing the gums to become irritated and inflamed.

The gums start to pull away from the teeth and the gaps become infected. If gum disease is not treated promptly, the bone supporting the teeth is destroyed, and healthy teeth can become loose and fall out. Severe gum disease can lead to teeth falling out and needing to be replaced.

How can I prevent gum disease?

It is important to remove plaque and bits of food from around your teeth as this will stop your gums from becoming inflamed and swollen, and becoming infected. If you leave plaque on your teeth it can harden into tartar, which can only be removed by a dentist/ hygienist. The cleaning that you do at home and the cleaning that the dentist/ hygienist does cannot compensate for each other. You need both to keep your gums as healthy as possible.

How do I know if I have gum disease?

Gum disease is generally painless, even though it damages the bone supporting the teeth. Gum disease will usually show itself as red, swollen gums that bleed when you brush or clean between your teeth. Many people are worried when they notice their gums are bleeding and then brush more gently, or stop altogether.

In fact, it is important that you continue to clean regularly and thoroughly if you are to fight the gum disease. If the bleeding does not go away within a few days contact us to have your teeth cleaned professionally especially if it has been more than 6 months since your last cleaning.

Which type of toothbrush should I use?

We recommend an Oral B electric toothbrush with a pressure sensor and soft toothbrush heads (sensitive heads). We don’t recommend any other type of electric toothbrush.

Why is brushing important?

Daily brushing and cleaning between your teeth is important because it removes plaque. If the plaque isn't removed, it continues to build up, feeding on the bits of food left behind and causing tooth decay and gum disease.

How do electric toothbrushes work?

An electric brush has an oscillating, rotating or vibrating head, which provides a large amount of cleaning action with very little movement needed from the user, although you do need to position the brush correctly.

Do electric toothbrushes clean better?

Tests have shown that electric toothbrushes are more effective at removing plaque. Those with heads that rotate in both directions ('oscillating' heads) are the most effective. Everyone can use an electric brush. They are particularly useful for people with limited movement of the arm or hand, such as disabled or elderly people, who often find that using a normal toothbrush does not allow them to clean thoroughly.

How should I brush?

Brushing removes plaque and bits of food from the inner, outer and biting surfaces of your teeth.

Place the head of your toothbrush against your teeth, then tilt the bristle tips to a 45-degree angle against your gumline. Move the brush in small circular movements, several times, on all the surfaces of every tooth.

Brush the outer surface of each tooth, upper and lower, keeping the bristles angled against your gumline.

Do this again, but on the inside surfaces of all your teeth.

To clean the inside surfaces of your front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several small, circular strokes with the front part of the brush.

Brush the biting surfaces of your teeth.

Brush your tongue to help freshen your breath and clean your mouth by removing bacteria.

How often should I brush my teeth?

Brush thoroughly with a fluoride toothpaste last thing at night and at least one other time during the day. If you regularly keep getting discomfort or bleeding after brushing you should make an appointment to see us for professional cleaning.

How do I know if I have removed all the plaque?

You can stain the plaque with special dye contained in disclosing tablets. You can get these from a pharmacy. The stain is harmless and will show any areas of your mouth which need better brushing. Look particularly at where your teeth and gums meet. Further brushing will remove the stained plaque.

How often should I change my toothbrush?

Worn-out toothbrushes cannot clean your teeth properly and may damage your gums. It is important to change your toothbrush every two to three months, or sooner if the filaments become worn. When bristles become splayed, they do not clean properly.

Should I use a fluoride toothpaste?

Yes. Fluoride helps to strengthen and protect teeth, which can reduce tooth decay in adults and children. Toothpaste should only be introduced after 2 years.

A small pea-sized amount (not a stripe) of fluoride toothpaste should be introduced after the child’s 2nd birthday. It is important to clean teeth twice a day with a toothpaste that contains at least 1000ppm (parts per million) of fluoride.

After 3 years old, use a toothpaste that contains 1350ppm to 1500ppm. You should make sure that they do not rinse but spit out the toothpaste, and that they don’t swallow any if possible.

Do toothpastes for sensitivity work?

Yes, but once you stop using them your sensitivity is likely to come back.

Do toothpastes for whitening work?

No. They may slowdown how quickly stains from tea and coffee form on your teeth but they are not going to change the natural colour of the actual teeth.

How much toothpaste should I use?

A pea-size amount, not a stripe is recommended for adults and children older than 3 years.

How should I clean between my teeth?

Clean in between your teeth with ‘interdental' brushes or floss - brushing alone only cleans up to about 60 percent of the surface of your teeth.

You can clean between your teeth with an ‘interdental' brush or dental floss. Cleaning in between your teeth removes plaque and bits of food from between your teeth and under your gumline - areas a toothbrush can't reach. When flossing or using interdental brushes, keep to a regular pattern and remember not to miss any teeth. It helps to look in the mirror.

Don't forget the backs of your last teeth. It is also very important to clean around the edges of any crowns, bridges or implants. You should clean between your teeth at least once a day. If you are unsure we can show you how to clean between your teeth properly.


Interdental brushes come in various sizes. We can show you the appropriate sizes for your mouth. You should use the largest brush that you can fit through a gap without causing discomfort. A pink tepe brush is the smallest tepe brush. If you can’t fit a pink tepe through a gap comfortably then you only need to use floss to clean that gap.

Hold the interdental brush between your thumb and forefinger. Gently place the brush through the gap between your teeth. Do not force the brush head through the gap. If the brush splays or bends then it is too big - you will need a smaller brush head for this space.


  • Break off about 45 centimetres (18 inches) of floss, and wind some around one finger of each hand.
  • Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers, with about an inch of floss between them, leaving no slack. Use a gentle ‘rocking' motion to guide the floss between your teeth. Do not jerk the floss or snap the floss into the gums.
  • When the floss reaches your gumline, curve it into a C-shape against one tooth until you feel resistance.
  • Hold the floss against the tooth. Gently scrape the side of the tooth, moving the floss away from the gum. Repeat on the other side of the gap, along the side of the next tooth.
  • Don't forget the back of your last tooth.
  • When flossing, keep to a regular pattern. Start at the top and work from left to right, then move to the bottom and again work from the left to right. This way you're less likely to miss any teeth.

More FAQs

Should my gums bleed when I clean in between my teeth?

Your gums may bleed or be sore for the first few days that you clean between your teeth. This should stop once the plaque is broken up and the health of your mouth has improved. If the bleeding does not stop it is likely that your teeth and gums need a more thorough clean by ourselves.

Are 'oral irrigators' (water flossers) useful?

Water flossers use a stream or jet of water to remove plaque and bits of food from around your teeth. They can be particularly helpful if you wear an orthodontic appliance (‘brace') or a fixed bridge that is difficult to clean, or if you find it difficult to use interdental brushes or floss. They are also useful for cleaning around lower wisdom teeth especially if a flap of gum sits partially over the wisdom tooth. Waterpik and Philips are the brands of water flosser that we recommend. Water flossers are not a substitute for flossing.

Should I use a mouthwash?

We don’t recommend that you should or shouldn’t use a mouthwash. A fluoride mouthwash can help prevent tooth decay if used at a time different from brushing your teeth.

Can my diet help?

It’s not just the amount of sugar in your diet that is important, it’s how often you have it. What matters is how often the sugar contacts your teeth and how long it stays in contact with your teeth. It takes up to an hour for your mouth to cancel out the acid caused by eating and drinking sugar. During this time your teeth are under attack from this acid. It is therefore important to limit the number of attacks by having sugary foods and drinks just at mealtimes. Chewing sugar-free gum and drinking water after meals or snacks can also help to cancel out the acid more quickly. As well as causing decay, sugary fizzy drinks, fruit juices, sports drinks, and wine can be acidic - which can also cause dental erosion. This is when the acid in foods and drinks gradually wears away the hard enamel coating of the tooth. This may lead to the tooth being sensitive.

I have implants, do I have to do anything special?

Dental implants require even more cleaning than natural teeth to prevent bone loss and infection around the implant. We will advise you the best things /dental aids for caring for your implants. Just like your natural teeth is important to have dental implants cleaned regularly with a dentist/ hygienist to help them last as long as possible.

Why should I visit the dental team regularly?

It is always better to prevent problems rather than have to cure them when they happen. If you visit us regularly you will need less treatment and we will spot any problems earlier, making any treatment easier and less expensive.

Final words

Good dental health begins with you. By following these simple tips you can keep your mouth clean and healthy:

  • Brush your teeth for two minutes, last thing at night and at least one other time during the day, using fluoride toothpaste.
  • Spit toothpaste out after brushing and do not rinse.
  • Use an Oral B electric toothbrush with a pressure sensor and sensitive heads.
  • Use small, circular movements to clean your teeth.
  • Change your toothbrush regularly, and at least every 3 months.
  • Clean between your teeth every day using interdental brushes or dental floss or both.
  • Have sugary drinks and foods less often.
  • Use a straw when you have fizzy or acidic drinks - this helps the drink to go to the back of your mouth and reduces the acid attack on the teeth.
  • Visit us to have your teeth and gums checked as often as we recommend.
  • Visit us to have your teeth cleaned as often as we recommend.

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