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Tooth and gum health

7 steps to a healthier smile

Knowing how to care for your teeth and gums every day goes a long way to preventing further (often more expensive) issues down the track. A great smile starts with good dental habits and a healthy diet, as you’ll see from these tooth tips.

 

  1. Brush and floss at least twice a day. Remember to brush your teeth after meals (and especially before bed) with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush – which is gentle on your gums. Flossing is also more important than you might think, so don’t let your dental floss gather dust at the bottom of the bathroom drawer!
  2. Use a fluoridated toothpaste. Fluoride is proven to harden enamel and reduce your risk of decay, which is a big plus for tooth health. After all, prevention is better than cure!
  3. Limit sugary food and acidic drinks. Food acid softens your teeth and dissolves the minerals in your enamel, causing holes or cavities. FYI, acidic drinks include soft drinks, carbonated water, cordials, sports drinks and fruit juice. If you are going to indulge (who doesn’t deserve a treat from time to time?), have sweet food and drink with meals rather than on their own. Avoiding foods that are very sticky will also put your teeth at less risk of deteriorating. In short, drinking plenty of tap water is best!
  4. Eat well. Good nutrition is essential for healthy teeth and gums. Eating a well-balanced diet gives your teeth and gums the nutrients and minerals they need to stay strong and resist infections. When you snack, choose teeth and gum-friendly options like cheese and dry crackers, vegetables, natural yoghurt and fresh (rather than dried or processed) fruit.
  5. Avoid mouth injury. Make sure you (and your kids!) wear a mouthguard during activities that could cause injury – fancy a game of hockey anyone?
  6. Keep your dentures clean. If you wear dentures, clean them after eating to remove small bits of food and plaque by brushing the inside and outside with mild soap and water. Remember to take them out overnight to let your mouth rest. You can keep them in a cup of fresh cold water – always a sure way to scare the grandkids!
  7. Remember that a bottle opener is cheaper than a new tooth. Avoid using your teeth for anything other than chewing food. If you use them to crack nuts, remove bottle tops or rip open packaging, you risk chipping or even breaking your teeth.
  8. Visit your dentist twice a year. Other than it being fun trying to tell them your news while their hands are in your mouth, regular dental check-ups are a great way to keep those teeth and gums in tip top shape. If you’ve got Extras cover, you can get up to two free dental check-ups at our Teachers Health Centres every year.

 

Dental emergencies – and what to do  

 

Some dental issues are urgent while others can be treated later on. If you experience any of the following symptoms, please call your dentist right away (if it’s out of hours they may provide an emergency number). Otherwise, go straight to a dental hospital (or the emergency department of your local hospital):

  • Knocked-out or loose tooth
  • Swollen face
  • Painful toothache that doesn’t go away
  • Bleeding gums that don’t stop
  • Accident or injury to your teeth or gums

Non-urgent dental issues include the following, so book in with your dentist as soon as you can (if in doubt, ask their advice):

  • Cracked or broken tooth (unless you’re in severe pain)
  • Damaged retainer
  • Dull toothache
  • Chipped tooth
  • Lost filling, crown or bridge
  • Sensitive teeth

To book your check up, make an appointment at one of our Teachers Health Centres or dental providers. For more info on taking care of your teeth and gums, check out the Australian Dental Association’s videos and articles.