We spend years doing it, we get our kids to do it twice a day or should but most of us don't know how to do it properly - dental care! Dentist Paul O'Dwyer from Dental Care Ireland shares some great advice on this week's ep of The LifeStyle Show. 

Listen to the full podcast with Taragh Loughrey-Grant above.

Paul, what are the three biggest misconceptions we have about our teeth and dental care in Ireland?Firstly, there is a misconception that attending the dentist is a scary experience! I am happy to say that the experience nowadays is quite different to that of older generations.

In recent times, many dental surgeries have refurbished and modernised their waiting rooms and clinics, to include new technologies and equipment. The dental surgery is now an open and welcoming place. In our own dental group, we even have dedicated play areas and iPads for children. 

Secondly, most people assume that all teeth are white. In fact, our teeth are naturally a yellow/grey colour! Our first baby teeth look very white. However, this is due to the thin layer of enamel which allows more light through.

As we get older, our permanent teeth come into the mouth and these teeth are denser. They have stronger dentine and enamel. Light doesn’t travel through as easily, so the teeth look darker. As we age, our teeth get naturally darker and more yellow. Teeth also pick up stains from tea, coffee, and other food products. 

Finally, there is a false perception that if teeth look good, there is no need to visit a dentist. Clean, white teeth are a great asset to anyone. However, the supporting gums are equally important, and they can only be assessed through a dental examination.

A dental exam also looks at the health of your entire mouth, including a check for oral cancer. Regular attendance at the dentist, particularly from an early age, allows your dental team to identify potential problems before they become an issue or cause discomfort. 

Where do we stand in terms of our EU neighbours in terms of dental hygiene care and standards?
A direct comparison to our EU neighbours is difficult as diets and habits vary significantly from country to country.

According to recent figures quoted by the Dental Health Foundation, however, a comparison of food habits in children and adolescents in 35 countries and regions covering Europe, Israel, and North America, ranked Ireland as having the highest average weekly frequency of sweets consumption.

Top tips for helping prevent dental decay
Top tips for helping prevent dental decay

What are the key pieces of advice for parents looking after children's teeth?
Early attendance at the dentist is the cornerstone of good dental health, ideally before the age of two, and preferably when the first tooth arrives at around six months. This allows your dentist to establish a baseline record of your child’s dental health and gives you an opportunity to ask questions on brushing, maintenance and diet.

Establish a regular brushing habit by making it part of the bath time routine from an early age. Avoid soothers and thumb-sucking where possible, as they can have implications for tooth crowding in the longer-term. Also, reduce frequent sugar intake and try to avoid sugary snacks. 

What is your advice for parents at sugar intense time periods like Halloween, Christmas and birthdays?
Try to limit treats to mealtimes and avoid grazing on them throughout the day. Our saliva production increases during meals, which helps rinse away sugary food particles and can reduce the risk of cavities. Avoid treats that tend to linger in the mouth, such as hard or sticky sweets.

Drinking water will help to dilute any acid attacks caused by sugary snacks. Replace fizzy drinks with water, and beware of fruit drinks or smoothies that can often be viewed as healthy but tend sometimes to be high in sugar and bad for your teeth.

Also, make sure to maintain a dental care routine, brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.  

teeth brushing
Don't worry if your teeth aren't bright white, teeth are naturally a yellow/grey colour!

Fact v's myths

Enamel regrows?
Enamel has the capacity to re-mineralise after an acid attack but sadly can’t regrow.

Can dental whitening make teeth more sensitive?
Some patients will have sensitivity during or immediately after tooth whitening. Every patient is different, but sensitivity is usually mild. A full check-up with your dentist before whitening is recommended to better predict your individual needs and expected outcomes.

Teeth straightened by braces will need to be straightened again in the future?
Most orthodontic interventions will require some retainer to be used for a limited time after treatment. As each case is different, your dentist or orthodontist is best placed to discuss with you the likely time and need for use of this important adjunct to orthodontics.

Flossing should be done daily by people over the age of 12?
Flossing between teeth is essential for healthy gums and helps reduce decay between teeth. This is true at any age, and the earlier flossing starts, the better chance of developing a lifetime habit.