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Understanding oral health

Woman brushing teeth
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Looking after your oral health is important and can help avoid emergency trips to the dentist. We have looked at the top warning signs everyone should know to look out for to keep your mouth healthy.

What is tooth decay?

Tooth decay happens when a tooth or teeth are damaged by plaque turning sugars into acid. If the plaque builds up it can lead to holes in your teeth and gum disease. Tooth decay doesn’t always have symptoms like pain, but you could experience toothache.

What are the signs of tooth decay?

Toothache can be either continuous pain or a sharp occasional pain without an obvious cause. Feeling sensitivity or pain when eating or drinking hot, cold or sweet things can also be a symptom, along with bad breath and an unpleasant taste in your mouth. You should also look out for grey, brown or black spots appearing on your teeth.

How can I prevent tooth decay?

According to the NHS, you should do the following to prevent tooth decay:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
  • Clean between your teeth with dental floss and/or interdental brushes
  • Reduce your intake of sugary foods and drinks; switch to sugar-free alternatives if possible
  • See your GP or dentist if you have a dry mouth

The NHS advises that you visit a dentist regularly; at least once every two years if you’re an adult and once a year if you’re under 18.

What causes tooth discolouration?

Many things can make our teeth discolour and stain them such as tea, wine, coffee and cigarettes. To help avoid staining and discolouration it's best to keep intake to a minimum. Smoking can stain your teeth and turn them yellow as well as causing bad breath and could lead to gum disease.

If you smoke, visit our smoking cessation service for help on stopping.

Teeth whitening

Some people get their teeth whitened to combat discolouration. It is important to note that teeth whitening should only be carried out by a dentist or dental professional like a dental hygienist or dental therapist. Getting your teeth whitened at a beauty salon is illegal and at home kits can cause risks, so always check with your dentist first.

What causes mouth ulcers?

Mouth ulcers are common and aren’t anything to worry about but they can feel uncomfortable. They usually appear inside the mouth, lips or on the tongue. A single mouth ulcer on its own is usually caused by things like biting the inside of your cheek, burning yourself on hot food or even stress, but if you're experiencing more than one mouth ulcer it could be a symptom of another condition, so speak to your GP or pharmacist for further advice.

How to treat mouth ulcers

Your local pharmacist can help with a mouth ulcer and might suggest an antimicrobial mouthwash, painkilling gels or tablets, a saline mouthwash or corticosteroid lozenges.

What causes bad breath?

Bad breath might be caused by eating spicy foods, an infection in your mouth, crash dieting, smoking or a medical condition like acid reflux or tonsillitis.

How to prevent bad breath?

To prevent bad breath the best things to do are to keep your teeth, tongue and mouth clean. Brush using a fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day for 2 minutes. Remember to floss between your teeth, clean your tongue with a tongue cleaner and get regular check ups at the dentist.

What are cold sores?

A cold sore is a skin infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. For more information on cold sores visit our blog and also our blog for advice on the treatment of cold sores

We have lots of advice on LloydsPharmacy.com to support your dental health, from toothaches to oral thrush and more.