HAVING a full set of set of pearly white teeth has never been more important for people who want to feel confident and healthy.

It is National Smile Month and experts are encouraging adults and children to follow simple steps to improve their dental health for life.

Yet limited access to NHS dentists and lax oral hygiene routines mean many people neglect their teeth and gums.

Yellow or missing teeth, toothache and bad breath are obvious signs of poor dental health — yet there are other more subtle symptoms, like bleeding gums, that if detected early can be nipped in the bud by regular trips to the dentist.

As part of the month, youngsters at schools across the borough were visited by experts where they learned the importance of good oral hygeine.

Robert Jacobs is a dentist at the Ravat and Ray Dentist in Deane — which is promoting National Smile Month. He says poor teeth can have a massive impact on a person’s confidence and social life.

He explained: “Taking care of your teeth definitely improves your quality of life. When you have a better smile and your teeth are whiter, it boosts your self-esteem and you’re more likely to have a better social life.

“I see a lot of people who say they hate their teeth and really regret not looking after them when they were younger.

“It means they are reluctant to smile and that has a massive impact on their life.”

The main causes of bad gnashers are diet and oral hygiene.

Anything sugary is going to be bad for your teeth. It enables plaque bacteria to thrive, resulting in tooth decay and gum disease.

Fizzy drinks are the big offenders — especially among children. People often rely on a sugary cola or lemonade as a quick “pick me-up” but dentists say if you are going to drink them, stick to having a glass or can at mealtimes.

Better still, swap fizzy drinks altogether for milk or water.

Reducing the amount of sweets and chocolate you or your children consume will also have a dramatic impact on your teeth.

Smoking remains the biggest cause of gum disease and drinking alcohol accelerates the damage caused by smoking.

Dr Jacobs added: “We’re not suggesting that you should never eat chocolate.  We’re saying you should reduce the frequency that you eat it — such as only at meal times. Smoking is still the biggest cause of gum disease and alcohol increases that damage.

“Oral hygiene is also key in reducing tooth decay and gum disease. You should always brush your teeth twice a day for three minutes using toothpaste with fluoride in it.

“Flossing is also important. If you don’t, you could need fillings or root canal treatment.”

Bleeding gums are also linked to more serious health problems such as dementia, heart attacks, strokes, complications during pregnancy and male sexual health problems. National Smile Month research showed that on average four out of five people in the UK do not think poor oral health is related to these conditions.

When more than 2,000 people were questioned, 83 per cent did not recognise that poor oral health could be linked to pneumonia, while 82 per cent were not aware of its connection with colon cancer.

A similar number of people did not think strokes and poor oral health were linked, and a huge 90 per cent of people put dementia in the same category. Only heart problems registered with those questioned, as 40 per cent thought they could be brought on by poor oral health.

And the statistics do not make for better reading when it came to gender-specific conditions.

Two in every three women do not believe poor oral health can result in pregnancy complications, and more than four in five men fail to recognise that erectile dysfunction can be caused by poor oral health.

To help combat this lack of awareness, practices like Ravat and Ray Dentist in Bolton are promoting National Smile Month.