This is a perfect time of year to assess your dental habits, revamp your routine and give your mouth an all-important MOT. After all, it’s not only your car that needs an annual check: our mouth, teeth and gums need regular TLC too, especially when love is in the air! Alongside dental check-ups, there are a number of surprisingly simple ways to enhance both your smile and keep your oral health in check. Here Dr Sameer offers his essential tips for achieving optimum oral health and hygiene.

1. It’s all in the brushing technique – When brushing teeth, your technique is key. The bristles of your toothbrush should come into contact with both the gum line and surface of your teeth, the brush should be held at a 45-degree angle against your gums and rather than scrubbing teeth back-and-forth, gently move your brush in circular motions.

2. Gently does it – Be careful not to brush your teeth too hard to avoid damaging enamel, the coating which protects our teeth and helps to prevent sensitivity. Some people find it easier to clean their teeth thoroughly with an electric toothbrush, but the same results can be achieved with a manual brush, so long as the technique is correct. If you’re unsure how to clean your teeth and mouth properly, ask your dentist to show you the correct technique.

3. Don’t forget your tongue – Bacteria can stay on your tongue even after brushing, so make sure you clean the surface of your tongue daily. Most manual toothbrushes now include a tongue brush behind the bristles, but you can also purchase specific tongue scrapers for a more thorough clean. Removing tongue bacteria can improve your breath and dental hygiene as a whole.

4. Flossing is key – Clean in between your teeth at least twice a week, using inter-dental brushes or floss. Flossing helps to remove plaque and food build-up, as well as reducing the risk of gingivitis, gum disease, and tooth decay. Additionally, it can help to remove some of the staining in between teeth, making your smile look whiter and brighter.

5. Throw away your old toothbrush – Be sure to replace your toothbrush when the bristles begin to fray; I recommend around every three months. Frayed bristles will not clean teeth as thoroughly and older brushes are likely to be harbouring bacteria, which can be detrimental to your oral health.

6. Regular dental and hygiene visits – Hygienists and dentists provide crucial advice on dental care, helping to identify signs of problems, such as plaque build-up and gum disease, before they become serious issues. If problems are not treated, they may lead to damage that is more difficult to repair. Having a deep clean regularly with your hygienist is also really important and he or she will be able to pinpoint areas of your mouth that need more attention and shortfalls in your brushing techniques

7. Improve your diet – A healthy lifestyle has benefits for your whole body, including your teeth, gums and mouth. Eating well, not smoking and limiting your alcohol and sugar intake is essential for a healthy mouth. Many popular foods and snacks contain hidden sugars, so I recommend using a straw when drinking acidic drinks and chewing gum after eating, to increase the production of saliva and help neutralise acids in the mouth.

8. Quit smoking – Smoking is one of the biggest causes of tooth decay and discolouration. The nicotine and tar in the cigarettes can lead to teeth darkening and yellowing, dulling the natural white. Smoking has also been linked with gum problems such as gingivitis, as it can impair blood flow to the gums and interfere with gum cell tissue; making smokers more prone to infections. Who wants to kiss an ashtray anyway?!

9. Straighten crooked teeth with braces – More and more adults are now having braces and orthodontics to straighten their teeth. With so many discreet and painless options now on the market, there is never a bad time to opt for braces. From a hygiene and dental health perspective, straight teeth can be easier to clean and therefore keep healthy.

10. Invest in teeth whitening – Over time, teeth may become discoloured by certain food and drinks, smoking and how well you brush. Although whitening toothpastes can help remove stains, these can be abrasive and damage enamel over prolonged periods. Therefore, I advise my patients to invest in whitening with a qualified dental professional, to ensure the treatment you receive is safe as well as effective.

Are you sparkly-white-fresh-breath ready for Valentine’s day?

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