Give yourself something to really smile about

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Mo Farrah after missing out on a gold medal
				 Picture: Adam Davy

VERITY LUSH: Leave me to browse the make-up counter in peace

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With National Smile Month (May 15 to June 15) approaching, I thought I’d take this great opportunity to increase awareness about oral hygiene and dental health.

This year the British Dental Health Foundation is promoting the ‘Smile Factor’.

The first impression we make is usually based on our smile and many of us consider this to be one of our best features. However some people do not feel as confident with their smile due to self-conscious feelings about their teeth.

If this sounds familiar, there are many things you can do to improve oral hygiene and in turn improve your general wellbeing.

Many people are also unaware of the risks to their general health that poor dental hygiene can pose. For example, there have been proven links between bacteria in the mouth and throat cancer, an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart attacks and an increased risk of breast cancer caused by tooth loss and gum disease.

UK statistics prove to be quite promising for dental hygiene. Consider the following:

An average of 65 per cent of people now attend their dentists regularly – this has increased from an average of 42 per cent in 1978.

A total of 94 per cent of people had one or more natural teeth in 2009 (that figure was just 56 per cent in 1978).

Today 86 per cent of the population have 21 or more natural teeth!

The number of children and adults in the UK with any visible signs of decay is rapidly falling as the years go by.

The UK is the second most likely nation in Europe to visit their dentist for a regular check-up.

Whilst these statistics paint a picture of a very positive future, there is still room for improvement.

The ‘Smile Factor’ campaign outlines three main points that can help us all to achieve healthier teeth:

1. Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste which will help strengthen teeth and prevent decay. Many people are very aware of the sugars and acids in their diet, but often forget the sugar and acids that they drink, for example in tea and coffee, fresh fruit juice (which, although it’s a great way to get your five a day, can be murder for your teeth). To help, it may be a good idea to have fruit juice with a meal rather than sipping it throughout the day.

2. Cut down the amount and how often you have sugary foods and drinks. Snacking can also be bad for your teeth and general health. Three meals a day is a great way to stay healthy, regulate your digestion but also help prevent decay and erosion on your teeth. If possible try to brush your teeth after each meal, if this is not easy try and floss after each meal, if this is still a bit of a struggle at least chew on some sugar-free chewing gum to help clean your teeth after each meal.

3. Make sure you visit your dentist as often as they require you to. A good start would be to make sure you are registered with a dentist! Many people have a family dentist but when they move away to university or just move house they don’t quite get round to registering.

The government health secretary has worked hard with dental practices to increase the number of NHS spaces available at dental practices. So make the most of this and get registered.

Secondly, make sure you try to keep to your appointments, even if you do not feel like you are having any trouble with your teeth.

Often problems have gone too far if detected only when there is pain, inflammation or bleeding. If detected early they can be prevented or controlled.

So there we have it, we’re all one step closer to a confident smile – remember to enjoy it!