View our Healthy Teeth & Gums presentation here. (PDF format. 1.05MB.)

Teeth are important.  We need them to eat, bite, chew, drink, talk, sing and smile.

Dental decay (caries) is still a serious problem in young children, and taking Central Lancashire as a whole, over half of 5 year olds have missing, filled or decayed teeth.  Dental decay is caused by the action of plaque and sugar reacting to form acid, which de-mineralises the tooth.

Plaque is made up of bacteria which are normally present in the mouth, and are continuously deposited on the tooth surface to form a sticky layer.  Plaque bacteria feed on sugar taken into the mouth, and produce acid as an excretory product.

Acid dissolves the enamel of the tooth, creating a microscopic hole.  If this happens frequently, a cavity is formed, and decay is established.

Always read labels on food and drink carefully.

Nursing caries (sometimes referred to as ‘bottle caries’). This is caused by prolonged and frequent consumption of sweetened drinks given in a feeding bottle.  Feeder cups with lids on, if used in this way, can give a similar effect.  Sweetened drinks cause most damage when drunk over long periods.  For example, in a pushchair or last thing at night.

Never put juice or anything sweet (not even honey) in a bottle.  Encourage drinking from a cup at 6 months.  By 12 months use only feeder cups no bottles.

Looking after Teeth

You can help to protect small children’s teeth from decay by limiting the amount of sugary foods and drinks they eat.  Sugary foods and drinks are best eaten at mealtimes only.

It’s also important to make sure that children never have sugary foods and drinks at bedtime or after they have brushed their teeth at the end of the day.  A sugary drink last thing at night will make tooth decay much more likely.

Introduce tooth friendly snacks between meals: Peeled and chopped fruit and veg, plain yoghurt, crumpets, toast and cheese spread, homemade plain popcorn, chapatti, pitta bread or rice cakes.

Mouth Cancer

Mouth or Oral Cancer is a serious disease.  It includes cancers of the lip, tongue and mouth. In the UK each year 2000 people get mouth cancer, of which about 900 will die.  This form of cancer is very common amongst people from Bangladesh, India, Sri-Lanka and Pakistan.

Why do people get mouth cancer?

Common causes of mouth cancer include any of the following:

  • Chewing paan with added ingredients such as tobacco (shada pata, zarda), areca nuts (goa/supari), Lime (chun), etc as a quid or masala.
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Drinking alcohol

 How can you prevent mouth cancer?

  • By finding out about the harmful effects of chewing paan and tobacco from your doctor, dentist or other health professional.
  • By making small changes to your lifestyle – e.g. give up paan and tobacco chewing. (If you find giving up hard, at least cut down on the tobacco you add and do not keep paan in your mouth overnight.)
  • By encouraging young children not to take up the habit.
  • By including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet
  • By making regular visits to the dentist for mouth checks.

Gum Disease

 What do healthy teeth and gums look like?

Healthy gums are firm and have a stippled ‘orange peel’ effect.  The edges cannot normally be separated from the teeth.  Gums should not bleed when gums are brushed properly.


Plaque is a film of bacteria which is constantly forming on the teeth.  Plaque is a soft, colourless substance which is difficult to see until it gets quite thick and becomes a white layer.  It collects on the surfaces of teeth mainly next to the gums and between the teeth.

Gum disease can sometimes go unnoticed until it is quite advanced.  However, most people will notice some of the following signs:

  • Red, swollen gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Bad breath
  • Bad taste
  • Gum recession
  • Loose teeth

Red swollen gums which bleed on brushing is often the first sign of gum disease.

Teeth affected by gum disease can be treated fairly easily.  Your dentist or hygienist will ensure your teeth are free from tartar (hardened plaque) and show you how to clean them properly.

Thorough cleaning twice a day will makes gums firm and healthy.

Your hygienist or dentist will advise you on the best way for you to brush your teeth, which will be tailor-made to your specific requirements.  There are many toothbrushes available but not all are as effective at removing plaque.  Choose a toothbrush with a small head and medium to soft bristles.  Change your toothbrush regularly.