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A chocoholic's guide to saving your smile

CONTRARY to popular belief, tooth loss is not a natural part of ageing. There are plenty of 80-plus people out there with a full set of teeth. Dr Ewa Dudarewicz, from KBM Dental in Rathfarnham, has the following five tips to help us keep hold of our teeth:

1 Don't let sugary treats sit in your mouth for too long. It doesn't matter if there's a little or a lot of sugar in your mouth. Bacteria are very small and even a small drop of sugar is plenty for them to react with and to create an acid. It's important to remember that we have sugar in our mouth until we brush our teeth.

When there is even a small amount of sugar sitting on your teeth for long periods of time, the acid can damage the teeth enamel. It is this acid that breaks down the enamel and causes cavities.

This is why it is important to brush and floss at least twice a day to remove as much of this acid as possible.

Remember, when you put a sugary drink or a sticky sugary treat into your mouth, one hour after you take your first bite, the acid starts to be produced and continues to be produced until you brush your teeth.

2 If you are going to indulge in sugary treats it is best to do so at the end of mealtimes. This is because there is still plenty of saliva in the mouth and saliva helps to wash away the sugars and acids that can build up.

However, this can only help in the short term. Did you know that chewing sugar-free gum only works at reducing the acidity levels for three minutes? The only solution is to brush and floss your teeth!

3 Drink a glass of water after eating a sugary treat as this helps wash away some of the sugars and acids as well as wash away food particles. It also helps reduce the acidity in your mouth. But again this only helps for a few minutes... so it's best to get brushing and flossing.

4 As long as you brush your teeth after each treat, you can eat as many sugary treats as you like, although it won't do much for your waistline. Don't forget about brushing and flossing your teeth after breakfast and before going to bed!

5 Visit your dentist regularly, at least twice a year, for a dental check-up as prevention is always better than a cure. Most tooth and gum disease doesn't hurt so, unfortunately, once you actually have a toothache, the tooth could well be beyond repair and there are very few options left when it comes to treatment.

This is why it's so important to have regular check-ups and cleaning -- without them, the disease progresses silently until you start losing teeth and end up with dentures.

KBM Dental have clinics in Rathfarnham, Tallaght and Skerries. For more information log onto www.kbmdental.ie.