Taking care of your general health and your mouth is the key to making the most of your smile.
Brushing your teeth twice a day (last thing at night before you go to bed and on one other occasion) with fluoride toothpaste and having regular check-ups with a dentist can help to keep your teeth healthy. Diet, smoking and drinking alcohol also have an effect on dental health.
A healthy diet is good for your teeth
What you eat and drink can cause tooth decay, so a healthy diet is important for your teeth.
A balanced diet includes plenty of fruit and vegetables, as well as starchy foods, such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta (choose wholegrain versions and eat potatoes with their skin where possible).
You should also eat sources of protein such as meat, fish, eggs, beans or other non-dairy sources of protein, and some milk and dairy foods (ideally lower-fat options).
Only eat small amounts of food and drinks high in fat and sugar. The eatwell plate shows how the different types of food should make up your diet.
Reduce sugar to prevent tooth decay
Limiting the amount of sugar you eat and drink is important to prevent tooth decay.
A lot of the sugars we eat and drink are in food and drinks such as:
- sweets, chocolate, cakes and biscuits
- sugary drinks, including soft drinks, fizzy drinks, milky drinks with added sugar, and alcohol
- fruit juice, including unsweetened fresh fruit juice and smoothies
- buns, pastries and fruit pies
- sponge puddings and other puddings
- table sugar added to food or drinks, such as tea
- sugary breakfast cereals
- jams, marmalades, honey and syrups
- ice cream and sorbets
- dried fruit or fruit in syrup
- syrups and sweet sauces
Here's why sugar is bad for your teeth, plus how to cut down on sugar.
Stick to one glass of fruit juice or smoothie a day
Sugars occur naturally in foods such as fruit and milk, but we don't need to cut down on these types of sugars.
However when fruit is juiced or blended, as in smoothies, the sugars are released from the structure of the fruit.
Once released, these sugars can damage your teeth so it's best to drink fruit juice or smoothies at mealtimes.
Your combined total of drinks from fruit juice, vegetable juice and smoothies should not be more than 150ml a day – which is a small glass.
For example, if you have 150ml of orange juice and 150ml smoothie in one day, you’ll have exceeded the recommendation by 150ml.
Get ideas for healthy drinks that won't harm your teeth.
How smoking damages teeth
Smoking can stain your teeth yellow, cause bad breath, and increases your risk of gum disease, as well as causing many other serious health problems.
Find advice on how to stop smoking.
Alcohol and oral health
Alcohol can also erode the outer surface of the teeth, leading to a loss of enamel. If this happens, you may need to go to the dentist for a filling.
Drinking too much has also been linked to an increased risk of developing mouth cancer.
The most important risk factors for mouth cancer are the combined effect of smoking AND drinking alcohol.
It's estimated that heavy drinkers and smokers have a 38 times increased risk of developing mouth cancer than people who neither drink nor smoke.
Get tips on how to cut down your drinking.
Foods and drinks can stain your teeth
Wine, cigarette smoke, tea and coffee are all teeth-staining culprits. Keep them to a minimum to stop your teeth becoming stained.
Your dentist or hygienist can give your teeth a professional clean, which may help to reduce the staining.
If you want to find out about other options, such as teeth whitening, have a chat with your dentist.
Read the answers to common questions about dental health.