Many of us know that 3pm-furry feeling you get at work. By that stage the combined effect of your second cup of coffee and the garlic aioli on your lunch have combined to create a distinct taste in your mouth. Luckily, there are some simple oral health hacks you can use to ensure your mouth stays in tiptop condition.
Before I start, I should say there’s no need to do all these extra things to minimise risk. I generally try to keep everything quite simple for people. There are two factors that have the biggest impact on your oral health: one is hygiene, (brushing and flossing regularly), and the other is diet. If everybody can stay on top of that, that alone can minimise risks.
However, if you want to get that furry feeling out of your mouth in the afternoon, you have two choices. You can snack on something which won’t be great for your teeth. Or you can get the same effect doing something that’s good for your teeth.
Oral health hack 1: use sugar-free gum
Sugar-free chewing gum can help a lot of people. The act of chewing a piece of gum produces enough saliva to create that extra protective mechanism. That alone can significantly reduce the risk of tooth decay forming or bacteria releasing acid to damage the teeth.
There is some evidence that xylitol gum is better than regular gum because it inhibits the growth of the bacteria that causes tooth decay. Xylitol is a natural sweetener and doesn’t have the bitter aftertaste of many artificial sweeteners. But really, the most important thing is getting your saliva flowing, and any sugar-free gum is good for that.
Oral health hack 2: don’t snack
Snacking is a problem for some people and not others. The impact on your oral health depends on the individual, how frequently they’re snacking and what that snack is.
If you’re watching your diet, then the amount of food or drink you snack on makes a difference. But when it comes to your oral health, it’s really the frequency that does the damage rather than the amount.
For example, some people may drink a single can of soft drink each day. If you finish that can of soft drink all at once—say, during your meal—then it’s going to do less damage to your teeth than if you keep it on your desk and sip on it all day.
If you think that using a straw to sip on your drink will somehow protect your teeth, think again. Some clinicians have recommended using a straw with the idea that the sugary or the acidic part of the drink doesn’t touch the teeth. But in my opinion, in reality, it does get to your teeth.
Oral health hack 3: avoid sparkling water
It isn’t just the sugar in carbonated beverages that creates problems for your teeth. It’s the carbonation itself which makes the water more acidic. Sparkling water has become quite popular over the years because it seems like a healthy alternative to a fizzy drink. But it can lead to damage that can accumulate over time.
That damage is not going to happen in the first five, six, seven years. It’s going to happen over 20 or 30 years. When you’re young and drinking carbonated drinks every day, it’s not a concern. But it will be when you’re 60 or 70. So, I recommend against drinking too many carbonated drinks.
I’ve read advice elsewhere about brushing after every meal or snack (not necessary), or even flossing after a large lunch. Stick to a good diet and brush and floss properly twice a day, and you’ll have most of your job done keeping your mouth as healthy as you can.