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Top tips for healthy teeth

Tooth decay (dental caries) is one of the most common chronic childhood diseases, the good news is there are ways to prevent it. Take a look at our sections below to help keep your teeth healthy.

Brushing your teeth

When and how to brush your teeth

Brushing your teeth is an important task to ensure you have healthy teeth and to reduce plaque build up. You should be brushing your teeth for approximately 2 minutes, twice a day - once in the morning and once at night just before bed. 

Choosing your toothpaste and how much to use of it

Children and adults in the Isle of Man are recommended to use fluoride toothpaste (1,350 – 1,500 parts per million fluoride – ppmF) for maximum protection as Manx water contains very low levels of natural fluoride, and our drinking water does not have fluoride added to it.

Children under the age of 3 should use a smear of toothpaste

Adults and children aged 3+ should use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.

Tooth brush with smear of toothpaste Tooth brush with pea-sized amount of toothpaste

When to start brushing your teeth

You can start brushing a baby's teeth as soon as the first tooth appears (usually around 6 months of age). Use a baby toothbrush with a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste.

Every child is different, but in general parents/carers should brush their children's teeth until they are 7/8 years old.

It is important to continue to supervise children's brushing until the age of 10 to 12 years old. This is to make sure they are doing it thoroughly.

Changing your toothbrush

You should replace a manual toothbrush every three to four months. If you use your brush for much longer than that, the bristles will start to become splayed and worn, and the brush will not be as effective at removing plaque.

The same applies to an electric toothbrush; the head should be changed every three months.

Choosing between an electric and manual toothbrush

Brushing our teeth is the foundation of good oral care and prevention; it doesn't matter whether you use an electric or manual toothbrush. Both electric and manual toothbrushes are effective at removing oral plaque that causes decay and disease.

Using mouthwash

Generally speaking, most people do not require mouthwash as long as they brush their teeth daily.

Using a mouthwash that contains fluoride can help prevent tooth decay, but do not use mouthwash (even a fluoride one) straight after brushing your teeth or it’ll wash away the concentrated fluoride in the toothpaste left on your teeth – choose a different time to use mouthwash, such as after lunch.

It is rarely advisable for children to use a mouthwash. Aside from swallowing concerns, fluoride mouthwash for children under the age of six can lead to them getting too much fluoride too soon, which has the potential to cause fluorosis. Always speak to your dentist before using mouthwash for children.

Important things to note when brushing your teeth

  • Do not wet your toothbrush before applying toothpaste. Toothpaste should be applied to a dry toothbrush

  • Make sure you brush all surfaces of the teeth

  • Spit out any excess toothpaste after brushing

  • Do not rinse your mouth out immediately after brushing. This will wash away the concentrated fluoride in the remaining toothpaste

  • Children should use a toothbrush with a small head size and medium-texture bristles

  • You should be able to feel your toothbrush on your gums when brushing your teeth

  • It is just as important to brush and look after baby teeth as it is permanent teeth

  • Make toothbrushing part of a routine and as fun as possible for children

Steps to brushing your teeth correctly

Toothbrush with pea-sized blob of tooth paste

 1. Put a pea-sized blob of toothpaste on the brush

Close up of mouth with toothbrush brushing top teeth

2. Brush the ouside of all teeth regularly - top teeth first

Close up of mouth with toothbrush brushing bottom teeth3. Repeat brushing on the bottom teeth! The teeth should be brushed well twice a day with fluoride toothpaste

Toothbrush with toothpaste brushing behind bottom teeth4. Clean behind all teeth, top and bottom

Mouth open with toothbrush brushing bottom side teeth5. Don't forget to brush the surface of the back teeth, top and bottom

Animated clock with 2 mins written on it6. Brush for two minutes. Spit out any extra toothpaste. Do not rinse

Food, drink and your teeth

Frequency of snacking and drinking

Sugary foods and drinks are one of the main causes of tooth decay.

When you are frequently eating or drinking, your mouth does not have time to recover and build up the important enzymes to protect your teeth.  

It is better for your teeth to eat three meals a day and to avoid snacking. If you do need to snack in between meals, choose foods that do not contain sugar.

It is important to know that it is not the amount of sugar you eat or drink that causes harm, but how often you do it – choose to eat or drink anything with sugar in at mealtimes.

Some sweet tasting foods do not have the word ‘sugar’ in their ingredients list, but still have sugar in them – they are just labelled in a different way (hidden sugars). For example, it may say: ‘glucose,  fructose, lactose’.

Many items contain hidden sugars, but some examples are: cereal and cereal bars, flavoured yoghurts, sauces and juice (including juice labelled ‘no added sugar’). Look out for these when reading food labels.

Sugar-free drinks

The short answer is no. Just because there is no sugar in your fizzy drink does not mean that it does not cause tooth decay. Sugar-free drinks actually cause just as much damage to your teeth as regular fizzy drinks. Although they may not contain sugar, the acidity in the drinks can cause dental erosion (loss of tooth enamel caused by acid attack).

Other drinks such as 100% citrus fruit juices and other no-added-sugar drinks can also have the same effect.

The best time to drink these sort of drinks is with meals (all at once); continuously sipping throughout the day will cause the most damage. Drinking through a straw is also a good idea as it helps minimise the contact between the acid and your teeth.

Most tooth-kind drinks

Plain milk and plain water are the safest drinks for teeth and can be drank in between meals.

Tooth decay process

  1. Sugar + bacteria from plaque = Acid

  2. Acid + healthy tooth = Decay

Top tips for protecting your teeth from decay

  • Be aware of foods that may contain surprisingly high sugar content such as dried fruit, smoothies, cereals and stir-in sauces

  • Bring your own tooth-kind snacks when out and about to avoid the temptation of sugary snacks from the shop

  • If you do need to snack in between meals, make sure you choose healthy options such as: fruit, cheese, breadsticks, milk, water

  • Always ask for sugar free medicines

Visiting the Dentist

Top tip for preparing your child for their first appointment

It is useful to bring your child along to your dental appointments to help get them used to the sights, sounds and smells of a dental practice. It also gives you access to information, advice and support for looking after your child's teeth.

Registering your baby with a dentist

Looking after your baby's teeth is very important, and you should register them with a dentist and arrange a check-up before their first birthday, or as soon as their first baby tooth comes through.

Visiting the dentist for the first time

The first dental visit is recommended by 12 months of age, or within six months of the first tooth coming in.

It is useful to bring your child along to your dental appointments to help get them used to the sights, sounds and smells of a dental practice. It also gives you access to information, advice and support for looking after your child's teeth.

Dental check-up

Regular dental check-ups are essential for maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Dentists usually recommend a visit every six months or yearly. Your dentist will always advise you.

Registering with an Dentist

To register with an NHS dentist you must join the NHS dental waiting list. Visit the NHS Dentists webpage for more information.

To register with a private dentist you could do this by recommendation or simply by ringing practices to see if they are taking on new patients.

If you have a dental emergency

The Community Dental Service is available for emergencies only. They can provide one appointment to relieve pain or treat other urgent dental conditions. Visit the Emergency dental treatment webpage for more information.

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