How to Brighten Your Smile

Make your teeth look years younger with this secret

how to keep your teeth white and healthy

Photo by: Marko Metzinger/Studio D

You may never have thought about it, but white, healthy teeth can take years of your look. Here are some top tips for keeping them pearly white:

Use a toothbrush and floss
Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss once a day. Make sure it’s a soft-bristle brush and, to prevent gum erosion, clean your teeth with a short, vertical sweeping motion, not a horizontal scrubbing one. Alternatively, many dentists recommend using an electric toothbrush. When you floss, slide the thread down under your gumline, not just between your teeth. Plaque and bacteria can get stuck in those hidden recesses, causing inflammation and decay.

Rinse (with water)
Simply rinsing your mouth after every meal is a small move that can make a big difference. A subtle swishing and swallowing of water right away at the table or just after eating helps minimize residue, staining, and tooth decay. And if you’ve had a glass of wine, it’s essential: wine has acids that penetrate the enamel, allowing staining and decaying food particles to penetrate more easily.

Eat a healthy diet
You already know that sugar - as well as anything that sticks to your teeth, from raisins to crackers - increases your risk of tooth decay, which can discolor (and destroy) teeth. So, it’s only logical that you should eat less of the sweet and sticky stuff, and more fruits and vegetables. But what you may not know is that research shows that the higher your consumption of folic acid from food (produce being a great source), the lower your risk of bleeding gums. Yogurt may help keep your smile healthy, too. One study found that people who consumed at least 1⁄4 cup of yogurt every day were less than half as likely to have serious gum disease. Researchers believe the magic ingredients are probiotics, so-called “good” bacteria that may compete with cavity-causing oral bacteria.

Get yourself into the chair often
See your dentist regularly to make sure your fillings are in good shape (silver, or amalgam, lasts only between 10 and 20 years). Be sure to ask to have the overall state of your mouth and bite assessed; consider orthodontics if your teeth have shifted significantly. Your jaw shifts along with your teeth, and if left unchecked can create a collapsed look.

Address your color concerns
White teeth are a visual shorthand for youth. Sadly, teeth naturally discolor over the years, because the outer enamel becomes thinner and more transparent, revealing the darker inner layer, or dentin, underneath. Teeth also absorb colored liquids (coffee, tea, cola, red wine) throughout your life, says Jeff Golub-Evans, D.D.S., a cosmetic dentist in New York City.

Fortunately, you can restore a younger look to your smile with options ranging from daily-use toothpastes and at-home kits to in-office treatments. Most whiteners address these problems with one key ingredient: peroxide. This safe-for-the-mouth bleaching agent forms bubbles on enamel that lift away stains. The higher the concentration of peroxide and the longer you leave it on your teeth, the whiter they’ll get. A word of caution, though - bleaching molecules can get trapped in nerve passageways, causing increased, though temporary, tooth sensitivity.

Try these recommended products:

Aquafresh White Trays

Paula's Choice Brighten Up 2-Minute Teeth Whitener

GO SMiLE Smile Whiteneing Light

Crest 3D White Advanced Vivid Whitestrips with Advanced Vivid Technology