The mouth is the entrance to the body and reflects general health and well-being. Keeping a healthy mouth is more than just about teeth, it is an important part of general health. Good oral health helps to protect the body against infection. Poor oral health may contribute to conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, respiratory disease and aspiration pneumonia.

Healthy teeth and gums play an important part in your quality of life, helping you smile, speak, eat, socialise and feel good about yourself. The main diseases that affect oral health are dental decay, gum disease and oral cancers. These conditions are largely preventable. Adults who need assistance with their personal care may be at a higher risk of mouth problems and need further support with dental care.

How to keep your mouth, teeth and gums healthy

For everyday messages on how to keep your mouth, teeth and gums healthy see: Healthy habits for a Healthy Mouth

Tooth brushing 

  • Tooth brushing is an important habit to help reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth, on the teeth and gums, and on your tongue. 
  • Use a pea size amount of fluoridated toothpaste and spit out after brushing. Do not rinse with water. A small amount of fluoride toothpaste left around the teeth will help protect them. 
  • Older dependant adults may need help with their dental care. This may include reminding and assisting with tooth brushing and denture care.

Flossing/interdental 

  • It is important to clean between your teeth every day with dental floss or interdental brushes. This will remove plaque and food between the teeth where the toothbrush bristles cannot reach. 
  • Ask your dental practitioner to show you the correct way to use these.

Denture cleaning

  • Denture or partial dentures need to be cleaned everyday using warm water, plain soap and a soft brush. 
  • Do not use toothpaste. 
  • Take care removing and cleaning the denture. See Caring for your dentures
  • See your dental practitioner if your dentures break or chip, need adjustment or if there is a persistent sore in your mouth.

Healthy eating

  • Making healthy food choices contributes to good oral health and overall health and wellbeing, reducing the risk of diet related conditions such as being overweight and obesity.
  • Eat more fruit and vegetables.
  • Eat healthy snacks that protect your teeth like cheese and low fat yogurt.
  • Limit foods high in added sugars, fats and salt especially between meals.

Drink water

  • Drinking water throughout the day, especially fluoridated tap water, keeps you hydrated and helps prevent your mouth from becoming dry.
  • Avoid drinks that contain added sugars (e.g. soft drinks, cordials, juice, sports drinks or energy drinks) as these increase the risk of dental decay.

Dental check

  • Visit your dentist regularly as advised by your dental practitioner.
  • Don’t wait until there is a problem. Regular dental check-ups are important to keep your teeth, gums and mouth healthy.
  • See your dental practitioner if you have any signs of dental/gum disease:
    • red, swollen, tender gums
    • leeding while brushing or cleaning in-between teeth.leeding while brushing or cleaning in-between teeth
    • gums moving away from teeth
    • loose or separating teeth
    • persistent bad breath
    • visual changes in your mouth. 
    • visit Oral health: Information for patients to see if you are eligible for free dental care in a NSW Public Dental Service.
    • Some Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Centres (ACCHS) provide dental care for their patients. Each ACCHS may have different eligibility criteria and appointment processes for their dental programs. Contact your local ACCHS for more information.

Smoking

  • Smoking causes poor oral health. It can increase the risk of gum disease and oral cancer, as well as stained teeth and bad breath. For more information see Smoking and your Oral Health
  • If you are thinking of quitting, visit iCanQuit or call NSW Quitline 137848 for advice and support. 

Drugs and alcohol

  • Alcohol, prescription and recreational drugs can cause dry mouth, bleeding gums, teeth grinding, tooth loss, staining of teeth, bad breath and can lead to dental decay, gum disease and cancer.
  • For advice and support visit Your Room

 For adults who need assistance

  • If you are a carer and notice any behaviour changes with the person in your care, please arrange for them to see their dental practitioner.
  • Carers play an important role in maintaining good oral care for those that need assistance through providing healthy foods and water, and daily oral hygiene care.
  • Behaviour changes such as not eating, touching the face, or refusing mouth care may be a sign of a dental problem. 
  • For those in hospital, maintaining good oral health is very important. Poor oral health while in hospital can lead to pain or infection in the mouth or lungs (pneumonia), and may result in a longer hospital stay.
Current as at: Tuesday 7 July 2020