Healthy habits to help you live to 100: Keep Your Smile for Life

Your teeth are meant to last you for life, but they can only do so if you look after them properly. Unfortunately, poor oral and lifestyle habits can all take their toll on your pearly whites. We have taken a closer look at these oral habits and how they impact your dental health, and how to overcome these effects.

Eating and Drinking

The foods and drinks you consume can significantly affect your dental health, and one of the worst culprits is sugar. Whenever you eat or drink anything sugary, the excess sugars are utilised by decay-causing bacteria found in dental plaque. Dental plaque is a sticky biofilm coating your teeth and builds up over your tooth surfaces between regular brushing and flossing.

The bacteria in plaque use leftover sugar for energy, excreting a weak acid as a byproduct. The acid removes essential minerals from tooth enamel, and repeated exposure to these acids eventually weakens enamel to such an extent that cavities form.

There are some simple steps you can take to reduce the impact of sugar. The first is to brush your teeth at least twice a day using fluoride toothpaste. Spit out the excess paste after brushing but don’t rinse your mouth as a thin layer of fluoride ions will remain to coat your teeth providing a little more protection.

Make sure you clean between your teeth at least once a day using dental floss or another tool like interdental brushes, soft picks, or a water flosser. If you aren’t sure about flossing, ask us for help and practical advice.

Last but not least, try to limit your sugar consumption to less than six teaspoons per day, which is the recommended amount for an adult, and when you have something sugary, consume it as part of your main meal and try to avoid snacking. The more frequently you snack on sugary foods, the more often your teeth are exposed to those weak acids.

Drink Water, Not Soft Drinks

Many of us don’t drink enough water, but it’s an excellent beverage for your teeth, and it’s sugar-free. Much of the water supply in Australia already contains fluoride, and drinking fluoridated water every day is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to prevent tooth decay.

In comparison, soft drinks are often packed with sugar. These include sports drinks and energy drinks. On average, a 600 mL bottle contains around 16 teaspoons of sugar. Fruit juice is no better, and if you read the nutritional label of a juice carton, you may be shocked to discover its sugar content. These sugary drinks provide very little or no nutrition and greatly increase your risk of tooth decay and developing other health problems like type II diabetes. Swapping to sugar-free drinks isn’t a good solution as these drinks often contain acid to make them tastier. Any food or drink containing acid will automatically attack your tooth enamel, eventually eroding it and causing cavities.