How to keep teeth healthy: Top tips from Britain’s Dentist of the Year 

Good dental hygiene is always important, and even more so as we age.

Teeth are incredibly strong, but they work hard. Most of us begin getting adult teeth around age six, and by the time we enter our early teens the teeth we have are the teeth that will need to see us through the rest of our lives.  

It used to be that losing teeth and needing dentures was an inevitable part of ageing. Thankfully, that’s no longer always the case due to better dental care and better dental products on the market 

Woman looking in the mirror brushing teethCredit: Shutterstock / Proxima Studio

That said, our teeth age just as we do, and that can create problems. Wear and tear can take its toll, as can the effects of hormonal changes, medications, foods, and drinks.  

We spoke to Dr Manrina Rhode, Dentist of the Year 2022, for advice about how to care for our teeth and gums. She offered a range of tips to help make sure our teeth and gums stay as healthy as possible.  

Dr Manrina Rhode was named the Dental Awards Dentist of the year 2022. She was the first dentist to treat patients in both Harvey Nichols and Harrods and now runs her own practice, the DRMR clinic. She also runs her own dental training academy.

Electric toothbrushesCredit: Shutterstock / Damian Lugowski

Get brushing

Establish a daily routine

“A perfect at-home oral hygiene routine is mindful brushing with an electric toothbrush, two minutes twice a day,” Rhode explains. “Ideally before breakfast and before bed. Flossing daily is also important as your toothbrush will not clean in between your teeth. A fluoride toothpaste will help prevent cavities.” 

The electric toothbrush market is vast, and it can be difficult to know what to opt for. You can check out our toothbrush reviews for extra advice on what to choose.  

Don’t apply too much pressure when brushing. It won’t make your teeth cleaner, instead it will damage the soft gums, resulting in them bleeding and becoming inflamed. No one wants that.  

Make sure when you floss that you’re scraping the side of every tooth. This is where plaque can linger, causing tooth decay and bad breath. You could also look into a water flosser to really make sure you’re getting rid of those tiny food particles.  

 

woman putting sugar in coffee and holding a cakeCredit: Shutterstock / Flotsam

Mindful eating

Limit sugary snacks

We all know that too much sugar in our diet can cause a lot of health issues and of course, it’s bad for our teeth. We’re not saying never have anything sugary the thought of no cake or chocolate makes us sad but try to limit snacks like that to an occasional treat.  

“Controlling cavities requires impeccable oral hygiene, but also a mindful diet,” Rhode says. “Be careful not to snack on sugary foods during the day. Limit sugars to mealtimes or eat in one go, rather than regular small bites. Rinse your mouth with water after eating sugars.” 

 If you cut back on sugar for your dental health, another benefit is that you could see weight loss and an improvement in your physical health as well. It’s a win-win. If you find it hard to go without snacks during the day, try different options such as vegetables or an apple.

Better yet, distract yourself from snacking altogether by occupying your brain with something completely different such as puzzles or a new form of exercise. 

Woman looking at teeth in a handheld mirrorCredit: Shutterstock / Svitlana Hulko

Check for gum inflammation

Take hormonal changes into account

When we think of hormonal changes, we don’t necessarily think of them affecting our teeth and gums, but the reality is hormones affect all areas of our body.  

“Women over 50 may be going through or have gone through the menopause,” Rhode says, adding that it can lead to some dental issues.

“Hormonal changes that occur during this time can cause gums to be inflamed and therefore more likely to bleed. Bleeding gums are unsightly, and gum disease associated with this can cause bad breath. Anyone who is menopausal noticing bleeding gums (and everyone really) should ensure a perfect at home oral hygiene routine and book regular visits to the hygienist, at least every six months.”

Also associated with these hormonal changes can be a dry mouth. A decrease in levels of saliva can lead to gum disease and an increase in cavities.” 

 To help combat a dry mouth, it’s important to stay hydrated, as we explain below.  

Hand crushing cigarettesCredit: Shutterstock / Nopphon_1987

Ditch the cigarettes

Stop smoking

The risk of developing an oral cancer increases with age and tobacco use, rising with every year you continue to smoke. Mouth cancer is twice as common in men than women 

Smokers are at a higher risk of developing an oral cancer (including the lips, tongue, hard and soft palates and throat), but stopping smoking, even after many years of use, can dramatically reduce the risk of many cancers.  

Make an appointment with your dentist if you notice a white or red patch in your mouth that lasts longer than two weeks.  

Smoking also affects your oral health in other ways. It causes gum disease to progress faster than in non-smokers, which can lead to tooth loss. It also leads to bad breath, an increase in plaque and tartar build-up, and stains the teeth. For help quitting smoking, visit the NHS website 

Friends drinking red wine togetherCredit: Shutterstock / Ground Picture

Choose wisely

Go easy on the red wine

“It’s worth mentioning the impact of wine on the teeth,” Dr Rhode says.

“Wine is acidic in nature so should ideally be drunk with a straw (as should most alcoholic drinks). As we are unlikely to start drinking wine with a straw anytime soon, it’s good to keep in mind that red wine will stain our teeth over time.” 

Rinsing your mouth with water between glasses will help to keep you hydrated and help with staining. Acidic white wine should also be followed up with a rinse and swallow of water. Don’t brush your teeth for 30 minutes after drinking wine, but do brush before you sleep.” 

 

Man and woman in kitchen drinking glasses of waterCredit: Shutterstock / Hananeko_Studio

Drink water

Stay hydrated

Having a dry mouth is uncomfortable, but it can also lead to oral health issues. Saliva performs an important role in our bodies; it aids digestion and protects our teeth and gums by washing away small food particles and neutralising the pH balance in our mouths.  

If your mouth is dry, those food particles can linger, contributing to tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath.  

Many medications list dry mouth as a side effect, including certain pain medications, blood pressure tablets, and treatments for incontinence. If dry mouth is an issue, take extra care when brushing and flossing.  

You can moisten a dry mouth by drinking water or milk. Holding it in your mouth for a moment before swallowing can also help. Get into the habit of carrying a water bottle with you wherever you go and aim for plain water or milk, rather than squash or fizzy drinks, to protect teeth.  

You can also chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free sweets to stimulate saliva production.  

Man putting in a mouthguardCredit: Shutterstock / Steve Heap

Consider a mouth guard

Stop grinding and clenching your teeth

You might have been in a stressful situation and suddenly become aware you’re clenching our teeth to get through it. Many of us will also find we grind our teeth in the night, often waking up with jaw pain or headaches. What you might not know, is that years of this habit can lead to unsightly teeth issues.  

“Many of my patients clench or grind their teeth often this habit starts in their teenage years. By the time they have reached their 50s there can be wear on the surface of the teeth, causing unsightly, uneven edges or exposed dark dentine.”  

“Being mindful during the day to keep your teeth apart can help with this. And wearing a night guard will protect teeth at night.”

“Enamel that has been worn away can be replaced with composite bonding by a cosmetic dentist. Professional teeth whitening from your dentist will also help to keep your teeth looking fresh, and a healthy-looking colour.”  

This might be something to consider if the cosmetic appearance of your teeth is causing you anxiety or confidence issues.  

Grinding your teeth at night might not be an easy habit to break, but it is worth paying attention to it and trying to quit. Most people find that night guards feel fine once you’re used to them. As well as protecting the teeth, it can also lead to a reduction in jaw pain, shoulder stiffness, headaches and more as the grinding lessens.  

If your teeth grinding or clenching is related to stress and anxiety, try addressing those issues first to see if it helps.  

 

Woman in dentist chair for a check upCredit: Shutterstock / RossHelen

In summary, looking after your teeth and gums doesn’t need to be time-consuming, but it is important to make appointments for regular check-ups with your dentist. If you notice any issues or changes to your teeth, gums, or oral health, make an appointment to get it checked. 

Becky Fuller

Written by Becky Fuller she/her

Updated:

Becky Fuller is a fully qualified Personal Trainer, specialising in strength and conditioning for over 50s. Becky’s focus is helping people to become stronger both in body and mind, and to move well without pain. Becky also has many years’ experience working as a freelance journalist, writing for a wide variety of publications such as Screen Rant, Geek Feed, and Daily Actor. She also regularly reviews theatre productions for UKTW.

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