Lifestyle tips for healthy teeth

Taking care of your general health as well as your teeth is the key to making the most of your smile.

Brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing them daily and having regular check-ups with a dentist can help keep your teeth healthy. But diet, smoking and drinking alcohol also have an effect on dental health.

A healthy diet

What you eat and drink can cause tooth decay, so a healthy diet is important for your teeth. A healthy diet contains foods from different groups, including fruit and vegetables, starchy foods (rice, pasta, bread and potatoes), some protein-rich food (such as fish, meat, eggs and lentils) and some dairy foods.

Find out more about how to eat a balanced diet.

Sugar

Limiting the amount of sugar you eat and drink is important to prevent tooth decay. Have sugary food and drink only at mealtimes and don't eat sugary snacks between meals.

Most of the sugars we eat and drink are contained in processed and ready-made food and drinks. These include:

  • sweets, chocolate, cakes and biscuits
  • buns, pastries and fruit pies
  • sponge puddings and other puddings
  • table sugar added to food or drinks, such as tea
  • sugary breakfast cereals
  • jams, marmalades and honey
  • ice cream
  • dried fruit or fruit in syrup
  • syrups and sweet sauces
  • sugary drinks, including soft drinks, fizzy drinks, milk drinks and alcoholic drinks
  • fruit juice

A glass of fruit juice counts towards your five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, but it also contains sugar. When you have sugary food or drink with a meal, it can be less damaging to your teeth than if you eat or drink it on its own. Try to drink fruit juice only at mealtimes.

Read more about how to cut down on sugar.

Smokers' teeth

Smoking can prevent you from having gleaming, healthy teeth. Smoking turns your teeth yellow, causes bad breath and increases your risk of gum disease, breathing problems and lung cancer.

If you smoke 20 or more cigarettes a day, you're six times more likely to develop mouth cancer than someone who doesn't smoke. So giving up smoking is important if you want to look and feel better.

Find advice on how to stop smoking.

Alcohol and tooth decay

Excessive consumption of alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of developing mouth cancer. According to Cancer Research UK, 75-80% of mouth cancer patients say they frequently drink alcohol.

Alcohol can also erode the enamel on the outside of your teeth, leading to decay. If this happens, you may need to go to the dentist for a filling. 

Read more about how to cut down on drinking.

A whiter smile

If you want to keep your teeth as white as possible, try cutting out substances that can stain them. Wine, cigarette smoke, tea and coffee can all discolour teeth. Keep these to a minimum or cut them out completely to stop your teeth from becoming stained.

Read more about teeth whitening.

Common Q&As

Read the answers to the most common questions people have about dental health, including:

Page last reviewed: 02/12/2013

Next review due: 02/12/2015

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The 3 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

karon lees said on 19 October 2009

I am currently a dental nurse studying to become an oral health educator.
This is a brilliant topic as it is just what i am going to do for my oral health display at my work. Thanks for all the great info!!!

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thanks said on 26 March 2008

thanks for this....this has help me with my school work

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Anonymous said on 11 March 2008

I think this is a wonderfull thing it keeps every one in the shape and we are in psre learning about health and growing up

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