We Brits have never been known for our gleaming smiles and perfect teeth, but looking after your gnashers properly is about more than just the look of your pearly whites. Problems with your teeth and gums cause other health issues and men, women and children can be affected differently, so it's important to take oral healthcare seriously - here's why.
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Research suggests that men are less likely to take good care of their oral health than women. In 2010, the Scottish Health Survey revealed that only 17 per cent of men used dental floss every day, compared with 34 per cent of women. Though they are not susceptible to the effects of hormone changes as women are, men are more likely to develop oral cancer, the risk of which is thought to be increased by poor oral hygiene.
There is also evidence to suggest that gum disease is linked to serious health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke, though it is not thought to be gender specific.
Though studies have revealed that women have a more positive attitude to oral healthcare, many may not be aware that changes in their hormones can affect their teeth and gums. During periods of high female hormone exposure, like during puberty, menstruation or pregnancy, women are more susceptible to bleeding gums, gingivitis and periodontitis (gum disease) canker sores, or aphthous ulcers.
According to research, up to 75 per cent of women develop gingivitis during pregnancy, and many suffer from ulcers during their period. Furthermore, post-menopausal women are prone to osteoporosis, or loss of calcium, which can mean losing teeth.
Therefore it is essential to take extra care of your teeth and gums during those periods where hormone levels change.
Children generally begin to lose their baby teeth at six or seven years of age, but even before that it's important to get them into a daily oral hygiene routine so as to avoid problems in the future.
A soft toothbrush can be used to brush your baby's gums, even before the milk teeth come through, as long as they are supervised. Once the teeth begin to show (usually at around six months), you can use a child-friendly fluoride toothpaste, which is milder than the adult version. By the age of three, you can use a small blob of adult fluoride toothpaste to help prevent tooth decay.
It's an idea to guide their hand and the brush at first, in order to ensure that they are doing it properly and help them to understand how to do it correctly.
Diet is also important for children's teeth, so ration the fizzy drinks and sweets, and try to persuade them to eat raw veggies instead.
And, of course, regular trips to the dentist are just as important for kids as they are for adults, but try to keep it a fun, positive experience if possible!
How to take care of your teeth
Brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and getting regular check-ups with your dentist should be a matter of course if you are to take proper care of your gnashers. Flossing at least once a day is also a good idea, particularly for women who are at an increased risk of problems, as mentioned above.
But a healthy lifestyle and diet are also important. Cutting down on sugary drinks and foods will help to prevent tooth decay, while quitting smoking and reducing your alcohol intake are essential. Those who smoke 20 cigarettes a day are six times more likely to develop mouth cancer than non-smokers, and regularly drinking more than the recommended alcohol limit has also been linked to a higher risk of developing the disease.
And if you are keen to keep your pearly whites just that, then avoiding substances that can stain, such as wine, cigarettes and tea and coffee.