Floss once a day

Flossing can remove plaque and bacteria from between the teeth, where a toothbrush is unable to reach. It can also help prevent bad breath by removing debris and food that has become trapped between the teeth.

Although there is a lack of long-term studies proving that flossing is beneficial, the ADA continue to recommend it. The CDC also state that people should floss their teeth.

Most dental health professionals recommend gently pushing the floss all the way down to the gumline before hugging the side of the tooth with up-and-down motions. It is important to avoid snapping the floss up and down between the teeth, which can cause pain and will not remove plaque as effectively.

Use fluoride

Fluoride comes from an element in the earth’s soil called fluorine. Many experts believe that fluoride helps prevent cavities, and it is a common ingredient in toothpaste and mouthwash.

However, some dental products do not contain fluoride, and some people do not use it at all.

Evidence suggests that a lack of fluoride can lead to tooth decay, even if a person takes care of their teeth otherwise. A recent review found that brushing and flossing do not prevent a person from getting cavities if they do not use fluoride.

Many communities in the United States have added fluoride to their water supply. Several organizations recommend this practice, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the ADA.

People can find out whether the water in their area contains fluoride by contacting their local government. Reverse osmosis water filters remove fluoride, and people who use well water will need to check the fluoride levels in this water to find out how much is present. Many bottled water brands do not contain fluoride.

Brush regularly but not aggressively

Most people are aware that brushing their teeth twice a day is one of the most important practices for removing plaque and bacteria and keeping teeth clean. However, brushing may only be effective if people use the correct technique.

People should brush using small circular motions, taking care to brush the front, back, and top of every tooth. This process takes between 2 and 3 minutes. People should avoid sawing back-and-forth motions.

Brushing too hard or using a hard-bristled toothbrush can damage tooth enamel and the gums. The effects of this may include tooth sensitivity, permanent damage to the protective enamel on the teeth, and gum erosion.

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommend using a toothbrush that has soft bristles. They also state that people should change their toothbrush every 3 months or when the ends start to look frayed, whichever comes first.

Mouth ulcers: causes and solutions

You’ve probably suffered from a mouth ulcer at some point – and when you have one, you know about it. Mouth ulcers are sores that form in the mouth and they can be very painful. They’re sensitive to the touch and often cause a sharp, stinging pain.

Ulcers are clearly defined, usually oval shaped and often react to the tiniest facial movements, making eating, talking and even smiling a painful ordeal. But where do they come from, and how do we get rid of them?


Mouth ulcers are very common. While they can sometimes point to an infection, anyone can get them no matter how healthy they are. The exact cause of common recurrent ulcers is difficult to pinpoint, but there are contributing factors that increase the likelihood of getting one:

  • Stress or anxiety
  • Oral trauma, such as biting the inside of your mouth by accident
  • Hormonal changes – it is not unusual for some women to develop ulcers during their period
  • Smoking, which can irritate the mouth and cause them, while a temporary reaction to quitting smoking is an increased chance of ulcers
  • A deficiency in vitamin B12 – this affects production of red blood cells, leading to ulcers. An iron deficiency will have a similar effect
  • Crohn’s disease, which causes inflammation of the gut, leading to ulcers in the mouth and the stomach


The good news is that ulcers heal naturally, but the bad news is this takes time. However, there are methods to relieve the pain while you wait.

Careful brushing: Bristles on an ulcer can be very painful so be extra careful when brushing. It’s worth avoiding hard foods as well.

Lifestyle: If stress is the cause, then adopting a less stressful lifestyle is advisable, and learning a few relaxation techniques can help.

Medication: If the ulcer is particularly bad, then medication is available to reduce the pain. Some mouthwashes are specially medicated to treat ulcers, although you should always check that you are not allergic to any of the active ingredients first. A good alternative is to rinse your mouth with warm, salty water.

Medicated gels can also be applied to the affected area. These gels will numb the area and provide relief. It will also protect the ulcer, allowing it to heal without further irritation.

If you have any concerns about mouth ulcers or other dental issues, make an appointment with your Portman.

How your teeth develop in your lifetime

As is the case with most mammals, we go through two sets of teeth in our lifetimes. The first set are temporary, known as milk teeth, which are followed by the second set of permanent adult teeth. Our teeth go through several significant changes throughout our lives, but how do they start and what happens after that?

5–8 months

When we’re born all we have are our gums, and it usually isn’t until five to eight months of age that the first milk teeth begin to push through. These are smaller than adult teeth due to the size of a baby’s jaw. The first to emerge are generally the incisors – these are the front, flat edged teeth used for biting and there are eight in all: four on the top and four on the bottom.

16–23 months

Next come the canines, which are your more pointed teeth. There are four in total and they bookend the incisors. The final eight teeth follow and should all be developed by the age of two years old, give or take a few months. These teeth are premolars with larger uneven surfaces, which we need for chewing, and complete our first set of 20 teeth, ten on top and ten on bottom.

6–13 years

Milk teeth are only temporary and will be replaced by a new set of adult teeth, which begin to emerge around the age of six. During this time, the milk teeth will begin to loosen and fall out, although you will rarely lose more than one or two at a time. It takes a few years for all of the old teeth to finally come out.

This is generally painless, but children can occasionally twist the loose teeth, getting them stuck the wrong way round, or pull them out slightly too early.

Adult teeth, or permanent teeth, are larger than milk teeth but by this time the jaw bone is developed enough to accommodate them. Again the first of these teeth to come through are the eight incisors, followed by four permanent canines, and then the four premolars. At the same time as replacing our milk teeth with larger adult teeth, we also develop additional teeth as our jaw grows. This begins around the ages of six to eight, when we cut our first set of four molars, followed by a second set of molars which come through at roughly 12 to 13. So, ideally, just before we head into our teens, we have a set of 28 permanent teeth.

Teens and Young Adults

During our teenage years it’s common for teeth to grow awkwardly and at angles, and so they may need straightening. Your Portman orthodontist will be able to advise on the most suitable treatments for teeth alignment.

There are four final teeth yet to emerge at this point – your wisdom teeth. It is usually late-teens to early 20s when these teeth come through, however the timing is different for everyone: for some their wisdom teeth don’t appear until late 20s, while others don’t get them at all. Many experience difficulties with this last set of adult teeth, and the main problem with wisdom teeth is that there is not enough space to accommodate them. They can cause problems such as overcrowding your existing teeth and growing through at difficult angles. Wisdom teeth can become impacted and cause discomfort, at which point it is best to remove them.


Your 32 permanent teeth are the ones you have for life, but that doesn’t mean they last forever. A daily routine of oral hygiene must be maintained or we may suffer irreversible damage. If we lose these teeth then the only other option is an artificial replacement.

You will get a lot more out of your natural teeth if you look after them well – those with healthy diets and oral hygiene routines have held onto their original adult teeth for their whole lives.


Even a healthy mouth is more vulnerable when you are older. Gums are more likely to recede as you age and you’re more at risk of gum disease, especially if you drink or smoke. But all this means is that you need to stay vigilant and make sure you brush and floss carefully, twice every day.

If you do lose any teeth along the way, there are plenty of natural-looking alternatives such as crowns, dentures or dental implants. Speak to your  dentist to find out more.

What equipment does your dentist use to look after you?

Your dentist has a whole host of equipment to help them look after you and make your experience as pleasant as possible. Here is a guide to some of your dentist’s equipment and what it does.

Mouth mirror

This will almost certainly be used during your visit. Your dentist needs to get a good view of the inside of your mouth, including the back of your teeth. The mirror enables them to see from all angles and help locate any potential problems more easily.

Dental probe

There are a number of different types of probe. Although they can look scary, they are used to explore the mouth and make sure everything is in order. A sickle probe is used to locate any cavities and other  oral issues, while a periodontal probe is used to measure the periodontal pockets and identify any problems, such as gum recession.


Teeth may be hard on the outside but under the enamel they are incredibly sensitive. In order to operate without causing you any pain, your dentist will administer a local anaesthetic to numb your mouth. Some Portman practices now have pain-free sedation, which means you don’t even know your tooth has been numbed. Ask your Portman dentist about this option.

Dental syringe

The dental syringe is used to administer local anaesthetic to numb your teeth and gums so your dentist can perform procedures that might otherwise be painful for you. Syringes are also used to rinse or dry your mouth with water and air respectively, which is necessary for certain procedures. Syringes can feel uncomfortable when administered, but this usually eases a few seconds.

Dental drill

The sound and the vibrations caused by the drill on your teeth may cause an unusual sensation but this is nothing to worry about. The drill is used to remove any decay attached to the tooth before filling in the cavity, although sometimes it is simply for polishing and smoothing the tooth once operating is complete.

Spoon excavator

Sometimes the material in a tooth cavity is soft and therefore no drill is necessary. Spoon excavators are used to remove this kind of decay.


Burnishers are usually used at the end of a procedure to smooth and polish your teeth, or remove scratches. They are often used after dental restorations to tidy up the tooth after the primary procedure.


Scalers are used to remove calculus from above the gum line. Sometimes plaque hardens to the point where it cannot be removed by brushing so it needs to be carefully scraped out with these instruments.


Like scalers, curettes are used for the removal of calculus but they are specially shaped to remove it from below the gum line, without causing any extra damage to the gingiva.

Suction device

During many procedures saliva and debris can build up in the mouth, which can make things difficult for your dentist. Small hoses are used to remove anything obstructing the mouth.


Sometimes a problem may not be immediately obvious so an x-ray will need to be taken to show a more detailed view of the teeth and bones. Without an x-ray, problems such as early decay are difficult to detect.


One of the most accurate ways to get an impression of the inside of your mouth is to fill a mould with a liquid material and bite down on it. The resulting impression can then be filled with plaster and hardened to create a model of your teeth, including any cavities you may have. These can be used to identify any problems and are also used to create suitable crowns, caps, mouth guards and braces.

Chipped and broken teeth: causes and solutions

Our teeth are really strong, but with the many stresses and strains that they have to endure, they can chip, crack or break.

Common cause of these breaks can include:

  • Eating something hard
  • Facial trauma following an accident
  • Damage from sports
  • Untreated cavities can cause a tooth to become brittle and break
  • Old, large amalgam fillings, where the remaining structure of the natural tooth can become brittle over a period of time

Broken teeth may not necessarily cause immediate pain. If the break has travelled to the nerve, you might experience occasional discomfort when chewing, for example, or sensitivity to hot and cold. Whether you are in pain or not, all breaks should be investigated by your Portman dentist as soon as possible in order to check the health and satiability of the tooth, and to provide necessary treatment to prevent further deterioration or problems.

Treatment for fractures and broken teeth

Teeth with minor chips on the edges usually don’t cause any pain or problems, but your dentist may suggest a repair by smoothing the edge and inserting a tooth-coloured filling. This will prevent the rough edge from cutting your lips or tongue.

Heavily fractured and seriously broken teeth may require more complex treatments, as these problems may be due to a cavity. A large cavity can cause fractures and breaks and, if left, will become extremely painful. Tooth cavities can also cause infections along the exposed gum line and pulp (root canal, nerves and connective tissue).  In cases such as these, root canal treatment may be necessary. Cracks and breaks can  also expose your nerve endings, making the teeth sensitive to hot and cold air and foods.

Root canal treatment isn’t always necessary for cracked and chipped teeth. Where there’s no pain or infection, cracks can be filled and bound together with a specialised tooth cement, while a broken tooth will be fixed with a crown. Crowns are also used as part of the treatment for other types of splits and breaks, such as broken cusps, split roots or vertical breaks, split molars, and as a precaution against further cracks. As a last resort, if your tooth has decayed from the inside-out and is irrevocably broken, your Portman dentist may recommend that your tooth is removed.

A cracked or broken tooth may not be noticeable or necessarily hurt, but just because it’s not causing any trouble doesn’t mean you should ignore it. No matter how minor you think it may be, its part of a good oral health routine to have any abnormalities investigated by your Portman dentist. Infections can arise quickly, so you want to make sure that you get the correct treatment as soon as possible. With regular check ups and discussions with your dentist, you can stop fractures and cracks from developing into problems.

What to do if you break your tooth

If you’ve fractured or broken a tooth, follow these steps immediately before booking an appointment with your Portman dentist.

  • Rinse your mouth out with warm water
  • Apply pressure on any bleeding areas using gauze or a wet teabag
  • Apply an icepack to your cheek if there’s any swelling
  • If you have access to it, cover any major cracks with temporary dental cement
  • If it’s painful, use an over the counter pain reliever such as paracetamol (unless your GP has advised otherwise)
  • Cover any broken teeth with milk, saliva or saline solution

If your tooth is broken, make sure you don’t brush it, and make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible. Your Portman dentist will discuss with you the best method of repairing the break, which could be one or a combination of fillings, crowns and root canal treatments.

Smile for life: tips for a healthy mouth

Smile for life: tips for a healthy mouth

Oral health is essential for your general wellbeing: not only does a healthy mouth enable good nutrition but it can also indicate if there’s something wrong elsewhere.

At Portman, we will work with you to ensure your oral health routine keeps you smiling for life. Read our expert advice to make sure your oral health is on track.

Ten top tips for a healthy mouth

  1. Brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes each time, using a fluoride toothpaste. Use a high quality toothbrush – an electric one is preferable.
  2. Change your toothbrush regularly. Invest in a new manual toothbrush or new electric brush head every two to three months, or sooner if the bristles become frayed and worn.
  3. Floss and rinse. Using dental floss or interdental brushes to clean between your teeth every time you brush is essential for gum health. Using a fluoride mouthwash with help to provide extra protection, fights bacteria and freshens your breath.
  4. Clean your teeth before breakfast. Consuming foods and drinks with high acidic levels will soften the enamel on your teeth. Brushing straight after eating, when the enamel is at its softest, can damage it. Over time, weakened enamel can cause sensitivity, staining and cavities. It is recommended to wait 30 minutes after eating before cleaning teeth, to allow the enamel to harden again.
  5. Cut down on sugar. Reduce the amount and the frequency of sugary foods and drinks in your diet. We all know we should curb the amount of sugary foods we consume, but we also need to limit the frequency of consumption.
    After eating these foods, the enamel softens, and is more susceptible to damage. The mouth’s natural defense, saliva, will help to harden the enamel again, but needs time to build up after eating. Regular snacking on sugary foods or drinking drinks high in sugar may limit this defense, leaving the enamel softened and teeth at risk of acid erosion.
  6. Visit your dentist regularly. Book an appointment for a checkup every six to 12 months to catch any issues early and keep on top of your dental health.
    Did you know your dentist also checks your soft tissue (tongue, cheeks and lips) at every visit for signs of oral cancer. Cases of oral cancer continue to rise, but catching any concerns early significantly increases your chance to cure it.
  7. Visit your hygienist. Regular trips to the hygienist will remove plaque and stains, brighten your smile, treat gum disease and prevent bad breath.
  8. Clean your tongue. Use a soft toothbrush or a special tongue-cleaning tool to regularly clean the surface of your tongue and remove bacteria that can cause bad breath.
  9. Replace missing teeth. Replacing any missing teeth will prevent decay and movement in the surrounding teeth, and bone loss elsewhere in your jaw. Implants and bridges can restore function and look very natural. Ask how we can help at your local Portman practice.
  10. Restore existing teeth. At Portman we have many treatments that can help restore the appearance of your mouth, from crowns to bonding. Just ask your Portman dentist for more information.


When we think of an emergency, we probably don’t imagine it could have something to do with our teeth.

However, any chip, crack, or toothache should be treated as a priority, because even if they seem like minor issues, they can lead to much worse (and more expensive) problems down the line.

Know Where To Go

Before an emergency happens, there are steps you can take to prepare yourself and your family. The first is to find a dental practice that is right for you. This way, you’ll know where to turn when something goes wrong unexpectedly, and you won’t have to waste precious time looking up dental practices. You want a dentist who is within easy driving distance, has a good reputation, is within your price range, and who makes you and your family feel comfortable.

Common Dental Emergencies

In addition to knowing where to turn when an emergency happens, you can also prepare for dental emergencies by becoming educated on what you can do on the way to the dentist. Here are the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s recommendations for three common dental emergencies:

1. A Knocked Out Baby Tooth

If a baby tooth is knocked out, contact your dentist immediately. Most likely, even if the tooth was not loose, they will not replant it because it could compromise the developing permanent tooth underneath.

2. Fracture Of A Tooth

If a tooth is cracked, chipped, or broken, contact your dentist right away because this will need treatment as soon as possible. Rinse out your mouth with water and find any broken fragments of tooth, then place them in cold milk to preserve them and bring them with you to the dentist. Do not ignore a crack or chip! If the dental pulp is exposed, it is in danger of infection unless treated quickly!

Watch this video to learn about bonding, one way a dentist may repair a chipped tooth:

3. A Knocked Out Permanent Tooth

If a permanent tooth is knocked out, head straight to the dentist. In most cases, a knocked out tooth can be saved if the dentist sees you within an hour of the accident. Before you get there, you can help preserve the tooth by replacing it in the socket and holding it in place with clean gauze or a washcloth. If it won’t go back in, store it in cold milk.

A few things you should NOT do if a permanent tooth gets knocked out are letting it dry out, handling it by the root, scrubbing it clean, or using soap, alcohol, or peroxide on it. Doing any of these things will damage the root of the tooth, reducing the chances the dentist will be able to successfully replant it.

Your Dentist Is Ready To Help!

Even if your tooth shows no external damage, a toothache is a sign that something could be wrong on the inside, and that should be seen by a dentist as soon as possible. Now, hopefully you will never have to put any of this preparation to the test, but if you do, you now know where to go! If you have any questions about what else you can do to prepare for a dental emergency, don’t hesitate to ask us.


On the surface, a toothbrush seems like just another item on the grocery list, but choosing the best one for you can be tricky.

There are several factors to take into account, such as bristle softness, grip feel, head size, and whether to stick with manual or go electric. That’s why we’re here to help make your selection process easier!

Toothbrush Qualities To Look For

Have you ever noticed that the toothbrushes you bring home from dentist appointments have very soft bristles? This is no accident. Hard bristles might seem like they’re better equipped to clean away plaque, but they could be damaging your teeth and gums while they’re at it. We recommend choosing a toothbrush with soft bristles. This is particularly important for anyone with sensitive teeth or gums.

The next thing to look for is the size of the brush head. Mouths and teeth come in different sizes depending on age and genetics, which is why toothbrush heads have a range of sizes available. Find the toothbrush that matches the size of your mouth.Just like bristle hardness isn’t an indication of effectiveness, having more bristles doesn’t make the brush better if it won’t fit easily around your teeth.

You might think that a toothbrush’s handle is its least important part, but a toothbrush with the wrong kind of handle is a difficult toothbrush to use. Is your toothbrush comfortable to hold and easy to maneuver, or does it slip in your hand? The better you are able to hold your toothbrush, the better it can clean your teeth. This is a particularly crucial consideration for people with arthritis or other conditions that make it difficult to grip objects.

Manual Or Electric?

This is one of the biggest debates when it comes to choosing a new toothbrush. A lot of people swear by their electric brushes while others claim manual ones are better. Some electric toothbrushes can do a better job of removing plaque, but it’s up to you to decide if that is worth the greatly increased price tag. Electric toothbrushes can be particularly beneficial to orthodontic patients who have to brush around braces, people with dexterity problems, and even children!

Out With The Old Toothbrush, In With The New

Regardless of what type of toothbrush you have, remember to always replace it between three and six months, and store it upright somewhere it can fully dry between uses. If you still have questions about what to look for in a toothbrush, just ask us! We want to make sure all our patients have the best tools for keeping their teeth healthy and clean.