If you don’t take good care of your oral health, it’s not just your teeth that could suffer. Oral health problems such as dental decay and gum disease have been linked to diseases in other parts of the body. Poor oral health may affect your general health, mental wellbeing and quality of life.
The good news is that the reverse can also be true. Improving your oral health could lower your risk of developing chronic diseases, as well as helping you to maintain a healthy smile. Here are four key ways that many Australians could improve their oral health starting today.
1. Cut down on sugar
When you eat or drink something sugary, this sugar is turned into acids by bacteria inside your mouth. Over time, this can erode the surface of your teeth, leading to tooth decay and cavities.
The World Health Organization (WHO) names free sugar (that is, sugars added to foods and drinks, as well as sugars naturally present in honey, syrups and juice) as one of the biggest risk factors for tooth decay across all age groups. It recommends that sugar intake should not exceed 10% of your total energy intake per day – this applies to both adults and children. Reducing your intake to 5% (around 6 teaspoons of sugar) per day could help reduce the risk of dental decay. 
According to the most recent Australian Health Survey, nearly half of all the population exceeds the WHO’s recommended limit. Most free sugars are consumed in drinks (such as soft drinks), sweet spreads, cakes, biscuits and other sweetened foods, so these should be your targets if you think you need to cut down.
2. Avoid nicotine and excessive alcohol
As well as being bad for your health in other ways, smoking and drinking too much alcohol can have negative effects on your oral health by increasing your risk of developing a number of oral diseases.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of oral cancer in Australia, which can affect any of the soft tissues in or around your mouth. If you also drink a lot of alcohol, your risk factor will be even higher. Your dentist may recommend a mouth cancer screening check during your routine check-up.
Smoking can also increase your risk of gum disease, affect your recovery time and outcome following dental treatments and stain your teeth. Quitting smoking and reducing your alcohol intake can lower your risk factors significantly.
3. Follow a good oral hygiene routine
Even if you brush your teeth every day, there could still be improvements to be made in your daily oral care regime.
The Australian Dental Association and other health organisations recommend that you brush your teeth at least twice a day, brushing for at least two minutes each time. You should also use a fluoride toothpaste, as this is proven to be more effective at preventing tooth decay and gum disease.
As well as brushing, you should floss at least once daily, drink plenty of water throughout the day and avoid foods and drinks that are bad for your teeth. This includes those high in sugar and acids and overly hard foods that might damage your teeth.
4. Don’t miss your regular check-ups
Visiting your dentist is another cornerstone of good oral hygiene. Regular check-ups give your dentist the chance to monitor any ongoing problems and to spot new ones. Dentists and hygienists can also give your teeth a professional clean and remove any plaque that may be present to lower your risk of decay.
The recommended interval for dental check-ups is at least annually. At Chapman Road Dental Clinic, we recommend that you visit every 6 months, as this gives our dentists an even better chance of catching small problems before they develop into more serious ones.
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