Do your teeth & gums need a little love? Our experts share how to keep on smiling in between dentist check-ups…

Gnashers, chompers, pearly whites – whatever you call them, our teeth and gums are something we look after every day, with brushing our teeth as ingrained in our daily routines as having a shower or brushing our hair (or beards).

However, a BBC investigation last August revealed that nine in 10 NHS dental practices aren’t accepting new adult patients, while one in eight aren’t taking on children. So, with this in mind, there’s even more pressure to look after our teeth properly at home, especially when you consider only 34% of us have seen a dentist within the past two years.

Whether you’re struggling to see a dentist, or simply in between your check-ups, here’s what you can do to help keep your mouth in mint condition...

Everyday care

For the majority of us, looking after our teeth is a case of a quick whizz with a toothbrush twice a day, followed by flossing when we remember. But Dr Tara Francis, dentist and advanced facial aesthetician, tells us how (and when) we should really be doing it…

"Brush your teeth twice a day, first thing in the morning half an hour before breakfast, then a second time before bed, after all your food and drink," she says. Brushing before breakfast is key, as it gets rid of bacteria that can stagnate overnight. "That bacteria loves to feed on the sugar in your breakfast. Brush your teeth first thing, wait half an hour for the good stuff from the toothpaste to settle into your teeth and give it some protection before you eat and drink," adds Dr Francis.

When it comes to flossing, Dr Francis recommends interdental brushes, such as Boots Expert TePe Interdental Brushes, which can be more effective than floss. They come in different sizes and are colour coded, depending on the gap between your teeth – you don’t want a size where you’re forcing it through, or no resistance, but something in the middle is ideal, recommends Dr Francis.

Don’t rinse after brushing, as it can swirl the good stuff away. And, if you use mouthwash, use it at a different time to brushing your teeth, such as half an hour after lunch.

Hormonal changes

Most of us are aware of the affect hormones can have on our bodies, whether it’s making us feel sick while pregnant, or vaginal dryness when we hit the menopause. But did you know hormonal changes can also have an impact on oral health?

"'Have a baby, lose a tooth' is an old wives' tale, but it comes from somewhere," says Dr Francis. "With pregnancy sickness, you’re exposing your teeth to more acid. Rinse out with water afterwards or eat a piece of cheese to try to neutralise the acid."

You’re also more at risk of gum disease when pregnant. "See your hygienist or dentist regularly to make sure your gums are still healthy. Also, take more time to brush your teeth, as well as using interdental brushes." Pregnant people are entitled to free NHS dental treatment and for 12 months after their baby is born.

According to Boots Online Doctor GP, Dr Zahra Damji, declining oestrogen levels during the menopause can lead to a reduction in bone density, which can affect the jaw, leading to loose, or even lost, teeth. Menopausal women are also more susceptible to gum disease. Dr Damji recommends trying to avoid sugary drinks and snacks in between meals, and if you smoke, stopping can help.

"Another common issue for women during the menopause is a dry mouth, which can increase the risk of gingivitis and tooth decay," says Dr Damji.

To help combat a dry mouth, try Boots Expert Dry Mouthwash or a saliva replacement, such as Biotène Dry Mouth Oral Balance Saliva Replacement Gel.

Daily grind

Teeth grinding is on the increase, with 70% of dentists seeing an increase in patients grinding their teeth in 2021 compared to six months before. It’s mainly caused by everyday stresses.

"More people are presenting with a sore jaw, or their chewing muscles have become much bigger, because they’re constantly using them," explains Dr Francis. To help minimise teeth grinding, the first thing she recommends is a relaxing regime before bed, such as breathing exercises or having a bath. If you’re a nocturnal grinder, get a retainer fitted by your dentist to avoid wearing teeth down as they become flatter in shape if grinding isn’t prevented.

Child’s play

When it comes to children, you can’t start early enough as, according to the latest PHE Oral Health Survey of Five Year Old Children, 23% of five year olds have visible decay. "As soon as teeth start coming through, get your child used to seeing the dentist and make it a happy place," says Dr Francis. "The dentist can do a clinical strength fluoride application, if recommended, which can help protect their teeth."

And use a kids’ toothbrush, such as Aquafresh Milk Teeth Soft Bristles Toothbrush. You can even get babies used to brushing by rubbing a soft toothbrush, like Frida Baby Fingerbrush on their gums. And use a child-friendly toothpaste like Boots Kids Mint Toothpaste.

But how do you make your toddler brush their teeth for two minutes? Dr Francis suggests a song they brush their teeth to or try during bath time.

Emergency fix

If you have a dental emergency, such as a chipped tooth or a filling that has come loose, and you can’t get to a dentist straight away, what can you do?

For a chipped tooth, Dr Francis recommends rinsing with salt water if there’s some gum bleeding and, if there’s a sharp edge on the tooth, to try a dental wax, such as Boots Expert Orthodontic Wax to help minimise trauma to the gums. If a filling has come out and there’s a big hole, try Dentemp Loose Cap & Lost Filling Repair. But Dr Francis stresses that this is only a temporary solution to avoid anything getting stuck in the hole until you get to the dentist, and to brush and rinse the area well before applying.

Team Health & Beauty's dental kit
Try: Colgate Max White Ultra Active Foam Toothpaste

• Size: 75ml

Zero-abrasive, the active oxygen molecules in this toothpaste help lift stains for whiter teeth.

Try: Ordo Sonic+ Toothbrush Rose Gold

• Four brushing modes

• Two-minute timer

• 40,000 sonic pulses

This utilises sonic pulse technology to not only clean the surfaces of the teeth, but clean deep between them.

Try: Corsodyl Gum Care Mouthwash Alcohol Free Daily Fresh Mint

• Size: 500ml

• Alcohol-free

Plaque can lead to gum disease, but this mouthwash reduces plaque and helps prevent further build up.

Try: Boots Kids Plaque Reveal Tablets

• Contains 10 chewable tablets

These tablets stain teeth to help show up any plaque. Follow by brushing teeth until all the colour is gone.

Try: Sensodyne Repair & Protect Deep Repair

• Size: 75ml

Tooth sensitivity can occur when the dentine underneath the enamel and gums becomes exposed. When it comes into contact with certain food and drinks, it can trigger the nerve, causing pain. This helps repair and protect sensitive areas of the teeth.

Try: Parla Original Toothpaste Tabs

• Contains 62 tablets

These tabs come in a refillable glass jar to help combat the billions of toothpaste tubes that go to landfill each year.

Boots Dental Plans

Did you know Boots offers three dental plans to help keep costs down? For a monthly fee, Boots Core Dental Plan reimburses you for the cost of most NHS treatments, while Boots Private Dental plans offer two levels of cover for private and NHS treatment. Visit for more information.

Photography: Christine Lutz/Blaublut Edition, Florian Kaefmueller/Blaublut Edition, Stocksy, Getty Images and Alamy.