Do you smirk when someone takes your picture, or smile big and show off those pearly whites? If you do the latter, you probably have strong, bright, healthy teeth. Vanity aside, good oral health is also a sign of good overall health. Find out what you can do to give your health a boost – starting with your smile.
1. Get whiter teeth
While whiteness doesn’t affect your health, it’s often what people notice first when it comes to teeth. What can you do if your choppers are yellow from smoking or discolored by drinks? For starters, use the right type of toothpaste and brush at least twice a day. (Find out if an electric toothbrush is really better.) Limit or avoid beverages drinks that stain teeth, like coffee, tea and red wine. And a prettier smile is just one more reason to quit smoking. If you’re taking all the right steps and aren’t happy with the results, talk to your dentist about over-the-counter or professional teeth whiteners. Check out this video to discover a natural, fruity way to remove stains!
2. Protect your gums
Periodontal disease is not high on anyone’s list of favorite subjects. But if your gums aren’t healthy, problems will surely follow. One main culprit? Plaque, a clear sticky substance your mouth produces that harbors bacteria. That’s why frequent brushing, to cleanse your mouth of that bacteria – followed by the right way of flossing – is paramount to oral health. A dry mouth – which can be caused by illness, smoking and some medications, such as antihistamines, decongestants and antidepressants – is another cause of gum disease. “You need to have saliva in order for your periodontal membrane and gums to stay healthy and make a good barrier to protect against bacteria,” says Keith Roach, MD, chief medical officer for Sharecare and co-creator of the RealAge® Test. Find out how chewing gum promotes salivation and prevents cavities.
3. Buck up and visit the dentist
Fear and cost are two of the main reasons people “forget” to schedule those annual check-ups. But regular examinations are your best defense against more serious – and expensive – dental problems. (Consider the difference between the cost of an annual check-up and the cost of a crown, which is literally hundreds of dollars.) Are your nerves holding you back? Given the advances in modern dentistry, there are many ways in which your dentist can help you feel less anxious.
4. Skip the Soda
There are plenty of reasons to swear off soda, both diet and regular – and here’s another: It wears off enamel, the hard substance that forms a shell, protecting a tooth’s sensitive internal structures. “Sugar and acid from soda is very bad for tooth enamel,” says Dr. Roach. Another tooth troublemaker? Sports drinks. Discover more ways to protect tooth enamel. And check out the top 10 U.S. cities where residents have the healthiest smiles.
5. Follow a dental-friendly diet
To help protect your teeth and gums, aim for a healthy, balanced diet that provides all the vitamins and other nutrients you need: Cover half of your plate with fruits and vegetable. According to the American Dental Association, fruits and veggies stimulate saliva production to wash harmful acids and food particles away from teeth and neutralize acid, protecting teeth from decay. Eat whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread and brown ride. Choose low-fat or fat-free daily products, and make lean protein choices. (Find why too much red meat is a recipe for aging.) Limit sugary foods and drinks. They’re linked to higher levels of cavity-causing bacteria – not to mention weight gain!