You Get Your Timings Wrong
The technique you were taught as a child needs an update. When you eat, the sugars in your food weaken tooth enamel. Brush straight away and you strip away this protective layer.
Instead, you should wait at least an hour after meals, which gives your teeth a chance to firm up again. Better is to brush before breakfast. White teeth are worth the weird-tasting orange juice.
You Overload On Sugar Without Realising It
Ideally, you wouldn’t drink orange juice at all. Whole fruit is bundled with fibre, which means the sugars aren’t as accessible.
Juicing fruit destroys the good stuff, which means you may as well wash down your cereal with a can of Coke. Ditto for smoothies. Stick to water or tea and get your five-a-day the proper way.
Your Mouthwash Belongs In The Drinks Cabinet
Boozy mouthwashes are good at killing bacteria. They’re less good at distinguishing good bacteria from the plaque-causing kind. Antibacterial versions, like Corsadyl, are equally undiscerning.
That’s bad news for your heart as well as your smile; research in the journal Free Radical Biology & Medicine found that antiseptic mouthwashes up your heart attack risk by decimating the bacteria that helps blood vessels relax.
Switch to a flouridated, teetotal version instead, like Colgate Flourigard Alcohol Free Mouthwash (£4.49, Superdrug).
Your Mouthwash Fights Your Brush
What you swill is only as effective as when you swill it. The fluoride in toothpaste coats your teeth and protects them from decay. When you rinse with mouthwash straight away, you wash that defensive layer away.
Instead, stow a bottle in your desk drawer and use it an hour after lunch, to freshen your breath through the afternoon.
You Brush Too Much
Brushing your teeth buffs away the stains that can discolour them. But brush for longer than two minutes, more than twice a day, or bear down too hard on your teeth, and you can brush away the enamel as well.
If you want to top up after eating, chew sugar-free gum instead; it stimulates saliva, which acts as a natural antibacterial to help keep your teeth white.
You Don’t Floss
Flossing is not an optional extra when you’ve got some spare time. Your brush can’t reach around a third of your tooth surface – if you don’t floss, this becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, which can cause decay and receding gums.
Floss straight after brushing, to pull leftover toothpaste between the teeth and double the protection.
You Don’t Replace Your Toothbrush
Your dentist encouraging you to replace your toothbrush (or brush head) every three months isn’t just so he can sell more.
When the bristles are cut at the factory, they’re left jagged. They’re rounded off before being packaged, but over time this forgiving surface wears away and you end up with sharp bristles that can strip your tooth’s dentin and enamel.
Replace yours before the bristles lose their shape.
You Never Visit The Dentist
No one – absolutely no one – enjoys the prospect of having someone take a drill to the inside of their mouth. But, adult life means sometimes forcing ourselves to do things we don’t want to. The irony here is that regular check-ups mean dentists can spot problems before they become really bad and do require three hours of drilling.
The frequency with which you should visit will come down to your dentists’ recommendation, depending on how healthy your gnashers are. It could be every few months, or every few years.
You Haven’t Mastered The Basics
How often, when, and for how long you brush – as well as the type of toothpaste you use – is all very well. But if you haven’t grasped how to properly brush your teeth, you won’t get very far. The equipment is only as good as the person using it, after all.
You need to clean all sides of your teeth – the inside, the outside and the chewing surfaces. Spit out your toothpaste but don’t rinse your mouth out with water afterwards, because this will wash away the fluoride that was in your toothpaste, diluting it and dulling its preventative effects on your teeth.
And that habit you have of brushing your teeth while organising the bathroom, replying to emails and finding a pair of socks to wear? Drop it. Standing in front of the mirror and over the sink is the best way to ensure you’re concentrating enough to give your teeth a thorough brush.
You’re Whitening Your Teeth Wrong
We all want a pearly white smile, and it’s tempting to get it done on the cheap. But it’s never worth the risk. In the UK, for example, it’s illegal for anyone other than dentists or their teams to carry out teeth whitening.
That’s because beauticians, hairdressers, and whoever else might offer you a dazzling smile might not have the right expertise and training, so may well be damaging your teeth and gums permanently – and if something does go wrong, they might not be able to rectify it.
Your Toothbrush Is Cleaner Than You Are
You might have heard horror stories about how many germs your toothbrush is harbouring, but scrubbing it within an inch of its life is more likely to damage your toothbrush. A simple rinse under the tap will suffice.
If you’re worried about it carrying bacteria, store it away in a bathroom cabinet or buy a little toothbrush cap. And make sure you store it in a travel case whenever you go travelling.
The Only Grinding You Do Is In Your Sleep
Grinding your teeth is a quickfire way to wear then down – and even chip them, in some cases. You might not know you’re doing it unless there’s someone else to tell you – or throw a pillow at your face in the middle of the night.
Look out for telltale signs like a headache or aching jaw. Visit your dentist ASAP if you think you’re a grinder, and get a mouthguard to protect your teeth. They – and any unlucky souls you share a bed with – will thank you.