Anyone who has been told they need a filling will know that they are generally not cheap, while other dental work can soon add up and leave people out of pocket. NHS dental charges are continuing to rise, and will increase by another five per cent in April 2017, meaning the minimum charge for NHS dental work will increase to £19.70. What’s more, it is set to go up again to £20.60 in April 2018.1
Over the course of a few years, dental work can run into hundreds or even thousands of pounds, depending on your age and whether you are registered with a private or NHS dentist. While there are several different treatments and procedures that people can undergo to fix any issues, the best way to protect your oral health, and pocket, is prevention.
Starting when you are young is the best bet – instilling positive habits in your children can increase the likelihood that they will maintain good oral hygiene into adulthood. The Child Dental Health Survey by the NHS found that improving oral hygiene habits have helped to reduce the incidence of tooth decay among young people over the past ten years2, but more work can be done to encourage best practice, including increased education around the dangers of poor oral health.
Food and drink
It’s no secret that sugar has a detrimental effect on teeth, but many people may not realise quite how many different types of food have significant sugar content. Even foods that you would not expect to find sugar in can often be full of it, including ketchup, pasta sauces and low-fat yoghurts and meals.
The majority of processed foods have added sugar, so avoiding these can help to reduce your
consumption. This has the added benefit of reducing several other negative effects sugar can have on your body, from weight gain to increasing your risk of heart problems and diabetes.3 Our blog on hidden dietary dangers features tips on how you can avoid sugary treats that can have a negative impact on your teeth and overall health.
When you think of sugary drinks, cola and other types of fizzy drink may be the first things that spring to mind, as these are traditionally earmarked by health campaigners as being detrimental to both oral health and wider wellbeing. But there are several other drinks that can contain high amounts of sugar and can be bad for the teeth. In addition to sugar added to tea and coffee, white wine is high in sugar, while many types of tonic water can be high in cavity-causing sugars.
Not only is the sugar found in food and drink bad for our teeth, those that are high in acidity should be avoided or eaten/drank in moderation, including lemons, limes, pickles, coffee and wine.4 Acids in food and drink can also weaken tooth enamel, leaving your teeth prone to sensitivity and discolouration.4
The NHS suggest that people brush their teeth for at least two minutes at least twice a day, but it can be beneficial to do it several times throughout the day, particularly after meals.5 This does not simply mean running the brush over each tooth haphazardly either – Colgate recommends the best ways to brush teeth, from angling the brush at 45 degrees, to also brushing your tongue to remove any harmful bacteria.6 After brushing, it is important to spit out any toothpaste, but avoid rinsing with water immediately after brushing, as this can dilute the effects of the toothpaste and make it less effective. Instead, allow your saliva to naturally wash it away over the course of a few minutes.5
Depending on the type of gums you have or the sensitivity of your teeth, you may need to use a certain type of toothpaste or toothbrush; trying out different ones can help you to strike the right balance and ensure overall protection. Colgate also advises that people change their toothbrush at least every three to four months, but if you have been ill or your toothbrush stands next to other family members’ toothbrushes, it should be sooner.7 If in doubt, ask your dentist!
In addition to brushing, regular flossing can help to clean the hard-to-reach areas between teeth while mouthwash can also boost anti-bacterial protection against some types of harmful bacteria that can cause decay.5
Regular check-ups are essential to help maintain oral health and can identify any problems before they are exacerbated, from small cavities to the build-up of plaque behind the lower front teeth, which is the most common place for it to appear due to the position of the saliva glands.8 Check-ups and regular professional cleaning can help to identify and treat these problems, and also ensure that any treatment is carried out sooner rather than later when it may be far more costly. Depending on your oral health, your dentist may want to see you as often as every three months, to as little as once every two years.9
Unlike GP surgeries, dentists are not bound to catchment areas, meaning it is possible for people to register with any NHS dentist, depending on their availability to take on new patients. To find the nearest dentist practices to you, enter your postcode here.
Due to the costs of dental check-ups and treatment, it can be useful having a plan in place to help claim back some of the costs. Sovereign Health Care’s range of cash plans offer money back against a range of dental charges, as well as other health and wellbeing expenses, including eye care and physiotherapy. To find out more about Sovereign’s cash plans and what they cover, visit www.sovereignhealthcare.co.uk.
1 Gov.uk https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/nhs-dental-charges-from-april-2016
2 NHS http://content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB17137
3 NHS http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/goodfood/pages/sugars.aspx
4 Colgate http://www.colgate.com/en/us/oc/oral-health/life-stages/adult-oral-care/article/how-acidic-foods-affect-teeth-and-which-to-avoid-1215
5 NHS http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/dentalhealth/Pages/Teethcleaningguide.aspx
6 Colgate http://www.colgate.com/en/us/oc/oral-health/basics/brushing-and-flossing/article/how-to-brush
7 Colgate http://www.colgate.com/en/us/oc/oral-health/basics/brushing-and-flossing/article/how-often-should-you-change-your-toothbrush-0114
8 OralWellness https://www.orawellness.com/how-do-i-remove-plaque-from-lower-front-teeth/
9 NHS http://www.nhs.uk/chq/pages/1780.aspx?CategoryID=74&SubCategoryID=741