There are lots of theories on how to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Dentists will advise you to brush and floss twice a day, yet despite meticulous oral hygiene, you’ll still end up with cavities, fillings, and extracted wisdom teeth. Some experts, like Dr. Steven Lin, tell us the issue is less about (lack of) dental care and more about diet. He says all our dental visits are driven by poor food choices that lead to Vitamin A, D, and K deficiencies.

This renowned dentist and author believes oral bacteria is intended to be beneficial, destroying germs and preventing cavities. It’s only when we feed those bacteria the wrong foods that they produce excess acid that burns through our teeth. He also believes common problems like misalignment and impacted wisdom teeth can be fixed by diet as well.

These issues – which are currently resolved with extractions and braces – are a result of our jaws being too small for our teeth. Getting the right vitamins and eating food with bite, especially from an early age, will exercise our jaw muscles and develop them, allowing them to grow larger, just like any other muscle group.

If we correct our kids’ food choices, then by the time their permanent teeth erupt, their jaw structures will be the right size to facilitate good spacing. Adults may be unable to widen their jaw dimensions at this point, but there are other things we can do to re-programme our dental health. Let’s look at a few of them.

Brush the right way

You might have learned that you should brush your teeth using up-and-down motions, then circular motions in addition to just brushing left to right, but it also helps to angle the brush right. Hold it at a 45 degree angle when you’re brushing the inner surfaces of your teeth. This offers the gum more protection from over-abrasive brushing. It also allows the bristles to better clean the base of your teeth.

Your toothbrush should have soft bristles, and you should brush your tongue as well. Many times, bad breath comes from bacteria on your tongue rather than your teeth. That’s why you can give your teeth a thorough brush and still have that ‘just woke up’ scent in your mouth. Keep your tongue fresh with your regular toothbrush and toothpaste or with tongue cleaner.

Seal the teeth, not the lips

When kids are little, they want to brush their teeth because it’s a fun game. Get them into the habit while they still enjoy it, before it becomes a chore they dread. At this age, their technique will largely be cosmetic and they may not be cleaning anything at all, but show them the right steps anyway.

Because they have a hard time reaching their back teeth, there is likely to be some plaque hiding there. You could help them out by applying a protective seal on those back teeth. It’s a thin film that prevents cavities and tooth decay. It’s not an excuse to stop brushing though.

You should also protect both your teeth and your kids’ teeth with a mouth guard when you’re taking part in any sport. Even if it’s not an explicit contact sport, accidents can happen, and it doesn’t hurt to have an extra layer of safety. Have your mouth guard designed by a dentist rather than buying one over the counter. Dentists cast a better fit, which does a better job.

Get a chewy clean

Brushing after every meal is healthy but often impractical, so you can add specific items to your meal-time or snack-time routine. It’s still okay to brush after meals, but you could also finish by chewing a piece of cheese or some sugar-free gum every time you eat.

They scrape off some of the harmful acids, lowering the pH in your mouth and cutting down the chances of decay. They also stimulate a little extra saliva production which is equally helpful in neutralising the acid in your mouth.

The best way to get fluoride into your body is to drink it, but you can get small amounts in a fluoride-enriched toothpaste. Two things to note. One, boiling fluoridated water beats the purpose, because 80% of the fluoride will evaporate as steam. And two, using mouthwash after brushing your teeth rinses off the fluoride in your toothpaste.

Mouthwash is great for fresh breath and that tingling clean feeling, but don’t use it immediately after brushing. Wait 15 minutes or so, letting your enamel get the full benefits of fluoride coating. Make mouthwash the last step before you put on your make-up or leave.