How to support good oral health at any age
You need to protect your mouth and teeth by maintaining good oral health. You can maintain good dental health throughout your life by adopting good oral hygiene practices and by having a healthy diet.
Cavities (tooth decay)
Anyone who has teeth can get cavities, but there are ways that you can help to avoid them.
Decay can be common around fillings and between teeth.
When you consume food and drinks that are sugary or starchy (high in carbohydrates), the bacteria that naturally live in your mouth and in plaque, break down to form acids. These acids attack and dissolve the outer surface of the tooth (enamel). This process is known as demineralisation.
The first sign of demineralisation is a chalky white spot. At this stage, the decay process can be reversed. If you suspect you have the start of tooth decay, make an appointment to see your dentist.
Proper nutrition is necessary for healthy teeth and gums. Eating a well-balanced diet gives gum tissue and teeth the important nutrients and minerals needed to stay strong and resist infections. Soft, sticky foods tend to remain on the grooves and between teeth.
- Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods
- If you eat sugary foods and sweets, limit their intake to mealtimes (rather than between meals).
- Choose snacks such as cheese, natural yoghurt, fresh fruit and vegetables, dry biscuits/crackers, nuts and wholegrain bread.
The best choice for healthy teeth and gums is tap water. It’s free from damaging sugars and acid – drink water instead of sugary drinks to reduce your risk of tooth decay.
- Drink plenty of tap water.
- Most of Victoria’s tap water supply has fluoride in it. Fluoride protects teeth from decay. Remember that shop-bought bottled water does not have fluoride in it.
- Avoid acidic and sugary drinks such as soft drinks, sports drinks, cordials, fruit juices and flavoured or carbonated water. If consumed, these are best to have with meals rather than between.
- Fruit juice might seem like the healthy alternative, but even if it’s diluted, fruit juice contains natural sugars which can lead to tooth decay.
- Choose plain milk instead of flavoured milk.
- Try not to add sugar to food or drinks such as tea and coffee
Brushing teeth removes plaque (the build-up on teeth) that causes tooth decay. Brushing your teeth and cleaning between your teeth is important because it removes plaque. If the plaque isn’t removed, it builds up and can cause tooth decay and gum disease. You should brush your teeth at least twice a day.
- Maintain good oral hygiene.
- Brush teeth twice a day (after breakfast and before bed) with fluoride toothpaste and a toothbrush that has small, compact head and soft bristles. When the bristles appear ‘shaggy’ it is time to change toothbrushes.
- After brushing, spit out toothpaste. Do not swallow it or rinse with water.
- Check out more – how to brush