Dental health

Healthy teeth are really important for our overall health. They help us to smile and speak and bite and chew the food we need to sustain ourselves. 

Keeping your teeth healthy will help you to maintain clean and healthy teeth and gums and develop good oral hygiene habits you need throughout your life. 

Remember the most important thing is brushing at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.

NHS Dental care is free for all under 18 - Find a dentist near you

Tooth decay is often caused by having too much sugary food and drink and not cleaning your teeth and gums. See a dentist as soon as possible if you think you have tooth decay. Early treatment can help stop it getting worse.

Brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste can protect your teeth.

Teeth are at most risk at night because there is less saliva in the mouth to protect them.

Check if you have tooth decay

Tooth decay may not cause any symptoms at first.

But if it gets worse it can lead to problems, such as a hole forming in the tooth (dental cavity).

If you have a hole in your tooth you may have:

  • toothache (tooth pain)

  • sharp pain in your tooth when eating or drinking hot, cold or sweet things (sensitive teeth)

  • white, brown or black spots on your tooth

Sometimes the tooth or gum can become infected, leading to a painful build-up of pus (dental abscess).

  • NHS dental care up to the age of 18 is free.

  • You should have regular dental check-ups as advised by the dentist. 

Why do I need a dental check-up?

A check-up allows your dentist to see if you have any dental problems and helps you keep your mouth healthy. Leaving problems untreated could make them more difficult to treat in the future, so it's best to deal with problems early, or, if possible, prevent them altogether.

What happens during a dental check-up?

At each check-up, your dentist should:

  • examine your teeth, gums and mouth

  • ask about your general health and any problems you've had with your teeth, mouth or gums since your last visit

  • ask about, and give you advice on, your diet, smoking and alcohol use, and teeth-cleaning habits

  • discuss a date for your next visit

Find a dentist near you

It’s best to eat food and drinks containing sugar at meal times. Lots of foods contain sugar – it’s not just the obvious things like sweets and cakes. Cereals, plain biscuits and yoghurts also contain a lot of sugar

Dilute fruit juices and squashes with water

Be careful with what you’re having to drink; fizzy drinks can cause the wearing of teeth (known as erosion) because they have a high acid content and milk shakes contain a lot of sugar too.

Some tips on cutting down on sugar can be found here

Teeth grinding and jaw clenching (also called bruxism) is often related to stress and anxiety.  

Most people who grind their teeth and clench their jaw aren't aware they're doing it. It often happens when you’re asleep or while you’re concentrating or under stress.

If you worried about teeth grinding, you should speak to your dentist.

You can also find out more information by visiting

People need braces for lots of reasons. They can help you to bite correctly, eat more comfortably and to care for your teeth and gums more easily.

Braces can straighten crooked, crowded or protruding teeth, close gaps between teeth, and correct the bite of the teeth so the top and bottom teeth meet when you close your mouth.

Braces are usually more successful in children and teenagers which is why a lot of people have them while they are younger.

Tips if you need or have braces

  • You will need a good oral hygiene before and during the orthodontics treatment

  • High sugary and acidic foods and drinks and poor cleaning may lead to permanent damage to the teeth

  • Use interdental brushes between and around the brace and your teeth to help clean them better

  • You need to have regular visits to your dentist, your orthodontist will not carry out the routine check-up like your dentist would do

Visit for more information about braces

Smoking and drinking alcohol is harmful to the body as a whole and to your mouth.

  • Smoking can lead to stained teeth and is bad breath 

  • Smoking can cause decay by reducing the saliva flow 

  • People who smoke are seven times more likely to have serious gum disease which can lead to loss of the bone that holds your teeth in meaning they might drop out.

  • Drinking alcohol regularly can damage your teeth by causing erosion which leads to decay and painful sensitive teeth.

Need help quitting smoking? Visit the NHS Smokefree website

Bad breath (sometimes called halitosis) is very common. You can usually treat it yourself.

The best way of making sure you do not have bad breath is to keep your teeth, tongue and mouth clean.


  • gently brush your teeth and gums at least twice a day for 2 minutes

  • use a fluoride toothpaste

  • gently clean your tongue once a day using a tongue scraper or cleaner

  • clean between your teeth with interdental brushes or floss at least once a day

  • get regular dental check-ups

  • keep dentures clean and remove them at night

  • use sugar-free mints or chewing gum after having strong-smelling food and drinks

  • try using an antibacterial mouthwash or toothpaste


  • do not smoke

  • do not rinse your mouth with water straight after brushing your teeth

  • do not have lots of sugary foods and drinks

  • do not brush so hard your gums or tongue bleed

See a dentist if you have:

  • bad breath that does not go away after treating it yourself for a few weeks

  • painful, bleeding or swollen gums

  • toothache or wobbly adult teeth

Here's how you can have healthy teeth and keep trips to the dentist to a minimum.

Brush your teeth twice a day

  • You should brush your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes

  • You should spit out after brushing but don’t rinse

  • Don’t brush your teeth straight after eating or drinking as it will wear away the enamel

  • It’s important to brush your teeth last thing at night before you go to bed

  • Use fluoride toothpaste containing 1350 – 1500ppm (part per millions) fluoride

  • Use a fluoride mouth rinse (alcohol free) every day at a different time to brushing.

Read more about how to keep your teeth clean

Have regular dental check-ups 

Have regular check-ups with your dentist. Do not put off going for a check-up. Detecting problems early can mean they're easier to treat.

If problems are not treated, they may lead to damage that's harder, or even impossible, to repair.

Straighten crooked teeth with braces

More and more teenagers (and some adults) are having braces and orthodontics to straighten their teeth.
Find out more about braces and orthodontics.

Floss between your teeth

Floss or use an interdental brush every day to remove food, debris and plaque lodged between your teeth.

Read more about why you should use dental floss.