Maintain that Healthy Smile

By: Ms Tan Yen Dhing, Pharmacist at Unity Bukit Merah

First seen in Lifestyle Magazine (November 2013), pg 103. This article is an unbreached version of the printed edition.


We often hear parents telling their children “brush your teeth before you go to sleep”. With simple oral habits such as brushing your teeth daily, you will gain healthier teeth and a brighter smile.

WHO reports that 60-90% of school children and nearly 100% of adults worldwide have dental cavities. Also, severe periodontal (gum) disease, which may result in tooth loss, is found in 15-20% of middle-aged (35-44 years) adults.

The types of food that you eat will matter. If you do not clean your teeth properly after eating, foods containing carbohydrates (sugar and starches) such as sweets, cakes, chocolates, breads, pastas, rice or potatoes can cause decay of your teeth. Bacteria in the plaque (a sticky, colourless film that constantly forms on the teeth) digest the leftover foods into acids. The acids then dissolve the enamel surface of the teeth, and eventually create holes on the teeth called cavities or caries.

Buildup of bacteria in the plaque causes gingivitis (inflammation of the gum) and makes your gum prone to bleeding while brushing or flossing. You may also notice several changes to your mouth including red or swelling gums, teeth and gums separating or pulling away from each other, and bad breath or bad taste in your mouth. If your gum is left untreated, it can progress into periodontitis (gum disease). By then, everyone’s nightmare of losing their teeth turns into reality. Tooth loss can affect all ages; children and adults.

Basic Dental Care Practices

Good oral health is important in preventing tooth decay and gum diseases. The following are basic dental care practices:

  • Good oral hygiene.

    Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss once daily to get rid of food and plague between teeth.

  • Keep your equipment clean.

    Always rinse your toothbrush with water after brushing. Store in an upright position, allow it to air-dry. Do not cover toothbrushes or store them in closed containers, which can encourage the growth of bacteria.

  • Know when to replace your toothbrush.

    Invest in a new toothbrush or a replacement head for your electronic toothbrush every three to four months — or sooner if the bristles become frayed.

  • Preventive care with regular dental check-ups.

    Make your dental appointment at least twice a year. Your dentist can detect cavities and early sign of gum problems, and prevent them from further damage. It is also important to seek early dental care if there are signs of dental problems such as swollen gums or persistent bad breath to prevent further complications.

  • Healthy and well-balanced diet.

    Limit sugary or starchy food intakes and try to eat them with your meal instead snacking in between to minimise the number of times your teeth are exposed to acids. Always maintain a good habit of brushing your teeth or rinsing your mouth after eating.

  • Fluoride containing dental products including toothpaste.

    According to WHO, dental cavities can be prevented by maintaining a constant low level of fluoride in the oral cavity.

  • Healthy lifestyle.

    Avoid tobacco use and alcohol consumption to reduce risk of oral diseases. Smoking cigarettes in general is detrimental to health. It can also turn your teeth yellow, cause bad breath and increase risk of gum diseases.

    Some food and beverages can stain the teeth. Wine, coffee and tea are more prone to staining your teeth than other drinks. Therefore, it is advisable that you rinse your mouth after having those drinks. Regular professional cleaning and whitening will also help to remove stubborn surface stains on the teeth.

Your smile and oral health depend on proper dental care. Maintaining that healthy smile is not only beneficial for your physical health, it also makes you look and feel good. As such, taking care of your oral health can boost your self-esteem and avoid embarrassing moments due to poor oral hygiene, such as bad breath.

Glow with your smile by starting to practice good oral hygiene today!


1) WHO Oral Health Fact Sheet April 2012

2) Singapore Dental Health Foundation