Anyone who remembers the 90s can tell you how much Ireland has changed over the past 30 years. But while you may hear plenty of comments about the influence of the Catholic Church, or how all those houses used to be fields, there is one area people will usually overlook: dental health. It may not be obvious, but the state of dental health in Ireland has improved dramatically since 1990. This is thanks in part to significant investment in the sector, but the impact of lifestyle changes shouldn’t be ignored.
We only get two sets of teeth in life, and the first set doesn’t really count. Given that we’re living longer, we need to make our teeth last as long as possible. While we may have better products and access to cheaper care, we are also eating more sugar and acidic foods than ever before. The truth is that if you want healthy teeth in this day and age, then you have to take an active interest and have a strategy.
In terms of preventing damage to your teeth, the main concern would be either sweets or soft drinks. It would be unrealistic to suggest that people cut these out of their lives, but knowing how to consume them can help limit the damage. For soft drinks, using a straw can help keep the liquid away from the teeth, and limit the damage done. Obviously sugar-free options are preferable, but if these don’t float your boat, just try to swallow any drinks or sweets as quickly as possible, as the longer they rest in your mouth, the more acid will be created. For this reason, you should also avoid sticky sweets, as these will remain in the mouth longer and cause more damage.
When it comes to strengthening your teeth, calcium is the most well-known aid available. The calcium and phosphates in dairy products will help remineralize your teeth, and build enamel, resulting in stronger teeth. Phosphates can also be found in poultry, fish, nuts, and beans. But even if your teeth themselves are strong, they also need good foundations, which means healthy gums. The best way to achieve this is by consuming lots of Vitamin C, most famously found in oranges, but also plentiful in broccoli, tomatoes, potatoes, and kiwi, to name but a few.
Finally, one of the most important ways to take care of your teeth is to ensure you are not being counterproductive. Most people would probably think that brushing their teeth after consuming something sugary or acidic is good behaviour. In reality, the acids and sugars we consume temporarily soften our teeth, so brushing them too soon can actually cause damage. You should always wait at least 30 mins after eating before brushing your teeth.
Looking after our teeth can be a bit of a chore, as you spend time taking care of them every day, with the payoff being that they stay the same. It can be tempting to just forget about them or just make a little bit of an effort, but you only ever get one chance with your teeth. When they’re gone, they’re gone, so think ahead, and start employing a strategy to keep them around as long as possible.