Maintain a Healthy, Beautiful Smile

From the time your first tooth poked its way through your tender gums, those pearly whites have played an enormous role in your life. Not only do the 32 nuggets in your mouth help you talk and chew, they can make or break your appearance.

Although aesthetics are important, however, even more important is tooth and gum health. In the last few years, researchers have uncovered a link between periodontal (gum) disease and increased risk of heart disease. One study found that men with periodontitis had a whopping 72 percent greater risk of developing coronary disease than those with healthy gums.

To keep your choppers in tip-top shape (heck, just to keep them in the first place), we’ve come up with the following 22 tips that go far beyond just brushing and flossing.

1. Go on a white-teeth diet. What goes in, shows up on your teeth. So if you’re quaffing red wine and black tea, or smoking cigarettes or cigars, expect the results to show up as not-so-pearly whites. Other culprits to blame for dingy teeth include colas, gravies, and dark juices. Bottom line: If it’s dark before you put it in your mouth, it will probably stain your teeth. So step one: Brush your teeth immediately after eating or drinking foods that stain teeth. Step two: Regularly use a good bleaching agent, either over-the-counter or in the dentist’s office. Step three: Be conscious of the foods and drink in your diet that can stain your teeth, and eat only when a toothbrush is around. If there isn’t one, eat an apple for dessert — it will provide some teeth-cleaning action.

2. Hum while you brush. The ideal amount of time to brush in order to get all the bacteria-packed plaque out is at least two minutes, British researchers found. Today you can actually purchase a song called “The Brush Along Song,” which runs exactly 2 1/2 minutes, to accompany your brushing. ( It’s targeted toward kids, but so what? Isn’t there a kid within all of us? Otherwise, keep a timer in the bathroom and set it for two minutes.

3. Grip your toothbrush like a pencil. Does your toothbrush look like it just cleaned an SUV? If so, you’re probably brushing too hard. Contrary to what some scrub-happy people think, brushing with force is not the best way to remove plaque. According to Beverly Hills dentist Harold Katz, D.D.S., the best way to brush is by placing your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle against your gums and gently moving it in a circular motion, rather than a back-and-forth motion. Grip the toothbrush like a pencil so you won’t scrub too hard.

4. Drink a cup of tea every day. Flavonoids and other tea ingredients seem to prevent harmful bacteria from sticking to teeth, and also block production of a type of sugar that contributes to cavities. Tea also contains high amounts of fluoride.

5. Chuck your toothbrush or change the head of your electric toothbrush at least every two to three months. Otherwise, you’re just transferring bacteria to your mouth.

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