21 MAY 2024

In today's health-conscious era, a healthy smile is vital. It's more than aesthetics; it's about overall health. Simple daily changes can make a big difference, says the Oral Health Foundation.

The charity believes that a healthy smile, a reflection of good oral health, can also boost self-confidence, enhance mood, and impact overall wellbeing, affecting everything from heart to mental health.

The Oral Health Foundation says there often are three common mistakes people often make when caring for their mouth. They say that with simple changes, these can be corrected, leading to a significant improvement in oral health.

 Brushing teeth properly

While most people brush their teeth twice daily, many don't brush long enough. Studies show that the average person typically brushes for only 45 to 70 seconds a day,1 which is less than half the recommended duration.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, says: "Brushing our teeth is a habit most of us have had since childhood, but it's not just about doing it, it's about doing it right. Brushing for at least two minutes with a fluoride toothpaste is essential because that’s how long it takes to thoroughly clean every surface, reaching all the way to the back teeth and around crowns and fillings. Oral health is a commitment, and every second counts.

“It is best to brush your teeth last thing at night and least one other time during the day, using a fluoride toothpaste. This will help to prevent tooth decay and help to strengthen the enamel on our teeth.” 

The charity says the next common mistake comes straight after brushing. Almost half (48%) the population admit to rinsing their mouth out with water after brushing.2

"Rinsing our mouth with water immediately after brushing can wash away the fluoride from our toothpaste, reducing its benefits," adds Dr Carter. "Instead, consider using a fluoride mouthwash. This not only helps maintain the fluoride's protective effect on our teeth but can also be beneficial if we have bleeding gums."

Cleaning in between teeth

Cleaning between teeth is a crucial part of oral hygiene because it removes food particles and plaque. If left untreated, this can lead to gum disease.

Despite its importance, less than one-in-five (18%) people regularly practice it. 

Dr Carter says: “Gum disease is not just an oral health issue, it's a serious health concern that can have far-reaching effects. Gum disease can lead to tooth loss and has been linked to other systemic health issues such as heart disease and diabetes.

“Using interdental brushes once a day to clean in between our teeth is a crucial step for maintaining gum health.”

The Oral Health Foundation recommends people to speak to their dental team about which interdental products are best for them. The dental team will also be able to suggest which size of interdental brush is most suitable.

Cutting down on sugar

In the UK, we consume a significant amount of sugar, which isn’t good for our bodies or oral health.

The government advises that no more than 5% of our daily calories should come from free sugars. However, currently, the average UK adult consumes double this recommended amount.

Dr Carter says: “Sugar can be hidden in various products. Ingredients ending in ‘ose’ like fructose, maltose, lactose, glucose, or listed as corn syrup, molasses, or caramel are all sugars.

“The term ‘free sugars’ can also be misleading. These sugars are added during manufacturing and do contribute to our daily sugar intake.

“Checking the sugar content on food labels can provide clarity. The traffic light system on labels can guide us: red indicates high sugar, fat, or salt content, while green suggests lower levels. It’s a simple way to make healthier choices.”

By cutting down on the amount and frequency of sugar can reduce the risk of tooth decay.

For more oral health advice and information, visit the National Smile Month website at www.smilemonth.org


  1. Academy of General Dentistry
  2. Oral Health Foundation (2016) ‘National Smile Month Public Survey’.
  3. Oral Health Foundation (2021) ‘National Smile Month Public Survey’.