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TOPLINE WELLNESS: Why looking after your teeth is the key to good health

Girl with sincere smile makes morning routine and brushes her teeth on isolated wall.

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Party line

An appointment with an NHS dentist is as rare as hen’s teeth. At least 12 million of us are looking for one, according to Eddie Crouch, chair of the British Dental Association. It’s become a political hot potato, with the Tories offering cash incentives to dentists, and Labour, if they get in, pledging 100,000 extra appointments for children.

Front line

‘The mouth is like a window into the body,’ says cosmetic dentist Dr Tom Crawford-Clarke. Bad oral health can lead to gum disease and dental decay, and it’s linked to diabetes, arthritis, pneumonia, heart disease and even dementia and Alzheimer’s. Vitamin deficiency and hormonal imbalance can be reflected in the microorganisms in our mouths, too.

Down the line

Our mouths age. Brace yourself for tooth discolouration, enamel erosion, gum recession, cracks, attrition (shortening of the teeth through grinding) and gappy teeth. Keeping enamel healthy is key – it’s the armour that protects the sensitive yellow dentine layer underneath.

Straight line

Decline begins in our mid-30s as bones lose density, the jaw thins and teeth move around. It’s why, in later life, so many people get overcrowded teeth. Braces are the front line of defence and an option at any age. But train tracks begone! There are now subtle retainer braces, such as Invisalign and Ultra Clear Align, that are almost invisible. From £1,500 nationwide.

White line

Is bleach the route to brilliance? Private dentistry (nationwide from around £200) believes so. Dr Wyman Chan, founder of the eponymous London clinic, says, legally, products with active ingredients [up to six per cent hydrogen peroxide] that whiten teeth effectively can only be prescribed by dentists.

Home whitening products, which can contain a maximum of 0.1 per cent, don’t work. Professional whitening needs to be topped up every one to two years. Refrain from an acidic diet, and avoid home remedies like baking soda with lemon juice – they’ll erode the enamel.

Help line

Do you grind your teeth? Invest in a mouth guard (from around £100 from dentists nationwide) to help stop enamel erosion and cracking. Other cosmetic treatments include composite bonding, which covers up tooth loss from grinding (using the same material that makes up white fillings), and veneers placed over existing enamel.

Thin line

Having unnatural ‘Turkey teeth’ like a Love Island contestant is not the only veneer choice. There are now ultra-thin varieties, less than half a millimetre thick, that last for ten to 20 years.

The enamel already present is kept safe (little to no tooth-shaving required). But this doesn’t come cheap: Dr Sam Jethwa, founder of Bespoke Smile (bespokesmile.co.uk), performs more than 1,000 of these a year at £1,250 a tooth. Gulp.

Jaw line

Can Botox injected into the jaw stop teeth grinding? Some practitioners think so and will charge you upwards of £170 for it.

A study on the online US National Library of Medicine confirms it’s an effective, safe and side effect-free treatment, and since trying it myself the arthritis in my jaw has almost gone and my sleep app no longer picks up bruxism (unconscious grinding) overnight.

Bottom line

Brush twice a day for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste and an electric toothbrush – spitting not rinsing – and use floss or interdental brushes at least once a day. Most importantly, see a dentist (good luck with an NHS one) and a hygienist twice a year.

Source: Mail On Sunday

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