Today marks the start of National Smile Month, so what better time to take a look at how we could be looking after our teeth?

After all, why wouldn’t we want a smile like this…

Want teeth like this? Follow these dentists’ advice! (Marko Skrbic/Flickr)

We’ve all heard that drinking too much tea, coffee, and red wine can stain your teeth, but what else are we doing wrong?

“I think 95% of people are doing most things wrong when it comes to their teeth,” Dr Lance Knight, a Bupa dentist, says.

Unconvinced? Well, here they are.

1. Having sugar throughout the day instead of all at once.

An office workers eats a Jammy Dodger biscuit at their desk
(Anthony Devlin/PA)

Dr David Bloom, a Harley Street dentist, says: “The frequency and volume of sugar intake is a big problem causing decay. When we consume sugar, acids are released which can lead to cavities and tooth decay.

“The worst thing you can do is take a sip of something sugary like juice, flavoured water, fizzy drinks or squash, and then another sip a bit later, then another sip, or snacking on one sweet here and there throughout the day. When you do that the acid pH level frequently drops below 5.5 which is where it should be. If you ate a bag of sweets all at once, it would only drop once. You don’t want to have more than four or five acid attacks to your teeth a day (an acid attack happens every time you eat).

Dr Knight agrees: “If you have a sip of fruit juice, or a litre, it makes no difference from a dentistry point of view. It’s the different applications of sugar or anything acidic to your teeth that’s the problem. One chunk of chocolate or a whole bar, it makes no difference to your teeth. It’s best to stick to three meals a day and don’t have snacks in between. If you’re going to have something sweet have it straight after your meal.”

2. Brushing too hard. 

Woman brushing her teeth

Bloom says: “Plaque is soft so gentle brushing is all that is required to remove plaque from teeth. Brushing inefficiently or using excessive forces can cause notches in the teeth which can lead to dentine hypersensitivity. Using a toothpaste with Pro-Argin technology such as Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief will provide both instant and long-lasting relief from any hyper sensitivity in the teeth.”

While Knight says: “I don’t mind what kind of toothbrush people use as long as it’s not really hard or really soft. If it’s too hard you’re brushing your teeth and gums away, you’re doing severe damage day in day out, and I’ve seen patients who are doing just that.”

3. Not drinking enough water.

Bottled water warehouse
(Bill Lynch/AP)

You might not think the amount of water you drink has much to do with your teeth, but it turns out it does…

“As well as the wider health implications of not consuming enough water, dehydration leads to a reduced saliva flow,” Bloom says. “So if you’re dehydrated you’re much more likely to have bad breath.”

Knight adds: “You stop producing saliva when you sleep, which has anti-decay properties. So if you eat something before bed and don’t brush your teeth, that causes problems.”

4. Eating a cheese course before a dessert course (if you’re having a posh dinner!)

Oh well, if we must ( Anthony Devlin/PA)

“We (the British) have it the right way around, eating dessert before cheese, while the French typically eat cheese first. But having a piece of cheese after a meal will actually generate saliva, so having some cheese or sugar free gum will help clean your teeth after eating,” Bloom says.

(We love any excuse to eat more cheese.)

5. Using teeth whitening kits that aren’t from your dentist.

“We’ve seen bad results from people using whitening kits they’ve bought over the internet. Sometimes the bleach is too strong, or it’s not even bleach,” Knight says. “One woman came in with green teeth! But whitening your teeth is completely safe, providing it’s done by a dentist (not a beautician) or a home kit that your dentist has provided.”

6. Rinsing after brushing or using mouthwash straight after.


Knight says: “You shouldn’t rinse during or after brushing, because you’re getting rid of all the goodness of the toothpaste. If you rinse with mouthwash afterwards, you’re washing it all away as well. I’d recommend using mouthwash at work instead, and another time later on, separate to when you brush and floss. Then that’s four applications of fluoride a day instead of of two.”

7. Not flossing.

“Everyone should be flossing twice a day,” Knight says. “But the problem is most people don’t know how to floss. I’d suggest using 18 inches of floss before brushing. Some people don’t see why it’s necessary, so then I suggest a test – brush your teeth twice and use mouthwash, so you’re teeth will feel very clean, then floss and smell the floss afterwards. It will smell horrible, so your teeth weren’t clean before.”

Bloom says: “Most people don’t clean between back teeth properly. The average person is only reaching 60% of the surfaces around their back teeth. Being right or left handed can affect how much of your teeth you reach as well.”

8. Not brushing your tongue. 


“People who don’t clean their tongue have what we call a biofilm – a yellowish layer that builds up. You should brush your tongue gently every day,” Knight says.