Once you’ve brushed, don’t rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash – you’re washing away the fluoride! This can be a difficult habit to break, but can reduce tooth decay by up to 25%.
No more than four ‘sugar hits’
Intrinsic sugars are found naturally in foods like fruit and they are far less likely to cause tooth decay than added or free sugars. Free sugars are generally those added to foods by manufacturers but also include honey, syrup and fruit juices.
These are all easy for bacteria to consume, metabolise and produce acids from. However, it can be difficult to tell which are the worst sugars for teeth. For example, although normal amounts of fruit are fine, fruit juices have sugar liberated from the plant cells and heavy consumption can cause decay.
The World Health Organization and NHS recommend free sugars should ideally make up less than 5% of your daily calorie intake. So what does this look like? For adults and children over about 11 years old, this is around 30g – about eight teaspoons – of sugar daily.
Although not as important as how much, how often you eat sugar also matters. Simple carbohydrates like sugar are easier for bacteria to digest than proteins or complex carbohydrates. Bacteria produce acids after they metabolise sugar which causes demineralisation.
Fortunately, through the actions of fluoride toothpaste and the remineralising effects of saliva, your teeth can recover from the early stages of these attacks. It’s like having a set of scales – trying to keep the balance between sugars on one side, fluoride toothpaste and cleaning on the other.
Typically, your teeth can be exposed to four “sugar hits” – episodes of sugar intake – daily without irreversible damage to the teeth. Why not try counting how many sugary hits you have a day? This includes biscuits, cups of sugary tea or coffee and other snacks with refined carbohydrates like crisps. A simple way of cutting down would be to stop putting sugar in hot drinks and limiting snacking.
Brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste, spit don’t rinse, eat and drink nothing after brushing, and don’t have sugar more than four times daily. Easy!