Having a nice smile isn't just about appearances, it's about health. "Having healthy teeth and gums is important for oral health and total body health. Gum disease is linked to diabetes, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, and certain cancers," Elizabeth Graves, a registered dental hygienist with Take Home Smile tells Eat This, Not That! Health. Most people aren't born with perfect teeth, but there are ways to achieve the smile you want and improve overall health at the same time, according to experts we spoke with. Read their tips below and ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Why Having Healthy Teeth is Important
Dr. Marina Gonchar, DMD and Owner of Skin to Smile says, "A healthy oral cavity is essential for overall systemic health, facial balance, and proper articulation and speech. There are numerous evidence-based studies that link certain systemic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease to the bacteria found in the oral cavity. Having unhealthy dentition and gingiva can lead to increased bacterial loads in the oral cavity and thereby in the systemic circulation, which can then exacerbate heart disease and diabetes. One obvious factor why teeth are important is for chewing efficiency and overall digestion. The digestive process starts in the mouth and continues in the digestive tract, proper breakdown of the food particles in the oral cavity can have a significant impact on the overall digestive health. Teeth in general and tooth position are also essential for proper speech and expression, missing teeth or improper position of the teeth can lead to articulation errors and speech difficulties. Additionally, teeth provide support for the cheeks and lips and give us a distinctive facial appearance."
Dr. Afshin Arian, DMD, Nevada Dental Director, LIBERTY Dental Plan of Nevada adds, "The teeth and the mouth are the mirror reflecting the health of the whole body and we are discovering daily the linkages between the mouth and the body. This can be seen clearly in the relationship between cardiac health and healthy gums, for example."
Dr. Alex Rubinov, DDS a board certified top Cosmetic Dentist in NYC says, "Having healthy teeth, and good oral hygiene, is so important because the oral cavity is the portal of entry for everything into your body. Obviously it's crucial to have healthy teeth so you can effectively and comfortably ingest food for nourishment, but beyond that, healthy teeth lead to an ability to smile with confidence, which affects how you show up in the world for yourself and those you interact with."
Brighten Your Smile for Whiter Teeth
Dr. Jonathan Richter D.D.S., F.A.G.D. Specializing in Periodontics and Implantology, Periodontal Prosthesis and Fixed Prosthodontics explains, "Teeth darken with age. Some of the color change can be from staining on the surface which is easily removed by cleanings and simple tooth bleaching. The darker the tooth the more advanced and multiple bleaching sessions may be required."
Dr. Wesam Shafee DMD, founder of Smile Care Dental Group reminds us to, "Use safe teeth whitening products. Ingredients such as hydrogen peroxide and carbamide sodium can help whiten the teeth without causing a damaging or abrasive effect on the teeth. Avoid whitening teeth with charcoal products, which can be abrasive."
According to Dr. Rubinov, "There are really two options for getting whiter teeth. The first is with a bleaching process (either at-home or in-office), which will help restore your teeth to their lightest natural shade. This option is limited by genetics and it requires maintenance over time. The second, which is my specialty, is with porcelain veneers, which not only give us limitless freedom to improve tooth color but also shape. With porcelain veneers, you never have to worry about staining or changing color over time."
Dr. Gary Cash, an award-winning dentist based in Austin, Texas, specializing in transformative aesthetics and restorative dentistry shares, "To get whiter teeth, avoid high-staining foods swishing through your mouth like red wine and coffee. As an alternative, try iced coffee with a straw, if possible. Although, if you're a big coffee drinker, there are many great options for teeth whitening both at your dentist's office and over the counter. All of these systems work well if used properly (consult your dentist before using, especially if you have porcelain restorations, and they will not whiten like your real teeth)."
Avoid Drinking Acidic Drinks&Minimize Coffee/Tea
Dr. Shafee, founder of Smile Care Dental Group suggests, "Choose water over seltzer, soda, juices, and lemonade, which are acidic. This will help improve a bright, healthy smile. Try to avoid sipping on coffee and tea for prolonged periods of time. Coffee and tea can stain teeth, so be sure to rinse with water as soon as you finish your drink. Drinking water helps maintain the health of your teeth and helps prevent staining."
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Brushing and Flossing
Dr. Arian says, "Good oral hygiene maintained by brushing and flossing after every meal coupled with regular dental appointments for check-ups and routine cleanings and needed care are a great way to enhance your smile."
Dr. Cash states, "Every single person should brush two times a day and floss once a day minimum. This is the bare minimum. People with any higher risk for tooth decay or gum disease should do even more enhanced home care. (Like water picks, flossing, adjunct flossing aids, proxy brushes, prescription toothpaste and rinses). These are all a lot more common than you think, I would say more than 50% of my adult patients have some form of mild undiagnosed gingivitis gum or bone issues."
Straighten Your Teeth
Dr. Jazmin Cromartie, HPU's assistant professor in the School of Dental Medicine says, "It is advised to first visit your dentist to obtain a consultation with an Orthodontist.– a dentist who specializes in straightening teeth for better function and esthetics. Orthodontists are trained to diagnose, prevent, and treat teeth and jaw irregularities, and they treat patients of all ages."
Dr. Shafee says, "You don't need veneers to have a beautiful smile. Set up a consultation with your dentist/orthodontist to see if you're a candidate for straightening the teeth. It can be very simple and completed in a few months."
Dr. Cash emphasizes to do, "Braces or clear aligners. I'm not a fan of DIY versions (i.e. taking impressions and mail it away). In essence ,straightening teeth and getting someone's smile and bite correct is challenging enough for dentists and orthodontists, let alone trying to do it yourself."
Dr. Gonchar states, "Unfortunately, there are no short-cuts to having straighter teeth and it is recommended that the process of tooth straightening is done by a licensed dentist or an orthodontist. There are several options of the appliances that can be used to straighten your teeth including clear aligners (such as Invisalign), metal braces, ceramic braces, or lingual braces (braces behind your teeth). Once you achieve your smile goals it is important to wear your retainer to avoid shifting of your teeth and the need for unnecessary rounds of treatment."
How to Get Teeth that are the Right Size and Shape for You
Dr. Shahrooz Yazdani, CEO and Director of Yazdani Family Dentistry shares, "Remember that taking good care of your teeth is a serious business – so take it seriously! Don't slack on your oral hygiene habits. Brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, floss every night before bed, make sure your toothbrush has soft bristles, and change it every two months or sooner if you notice the bristles are frayed, use an antiseptic mouthwash daily to help prevent plaque buildup, and visit your dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups. The best thing you can do to ensure your teeth are the right fit for your mouth is to take care of them as best you can. If you have noticed that they are worn, weak, discoloured, or chipped, it might be best to look into full mouth restorations with your dentist. Full mouth restorations are restorative dental procedures that can involve any number of cosmetic procedures for your teeth such as veneers, bridges, crowns, implants, or more. This is a great way to bring your teeth back to where they all are the right size, shape, and colour for your mouth.
According to Dr. Gonchar, "The size and shape of your teeth are determined by your genetics but can be modified by dental professionals based on your facial characteristics and esthetic needs. There are conservative ways to modify the shape and size of your teeth called dental esthetic recontouring by which a dental provider can reshape the edges of your teeth to better fit your esthetic needs. Another way to change the shape and size of your teeth involves a gum lifting procedure, a gingivectomy or crown lengthening, where excess gum tissue or excess gum and bone tissue is removed to expose more of your tooth structure giving your teeth a larger appearance. If these options will not achieve satisfactory results there are more invasive dental procedures, such as veneer, where the shape, size and color of the teeth can be custom designed for your individual needs."
How to Get a Beautiful Natural Smile
Dr. Gonchar says, "Being confident in your smile is the most important factor in achieving a natural smile."
Dr. Cromartie states, "People typically feel more confident in their smile when they maintain good oral hygiene and/or cosmetic dentistry such as crowns or veneers to fix affected teeth."
Dr. Rubinov explains, "A lot of people associate porcelain veneers with very fake looking white chicklet smiles. Veneers don't inherently look fake— if you want a natural looking smile you should see a cosmetic dentist who values beauty over perfection. I work with patients and my ceramist to achieve results that look natural through many different avenues, such as creating natural shading on each tooth and incorporating irregularities into the design that feel organic."
Poor Lifestyle Choices that Lead to Unhealthy Teeth
Dr. Cromartie shares, "Consuming a diet with less sugary foods and acidic beverages will help to prevent breakdown of the enamel (outside the protective layer of the tooth) and prevent cavities. It is recommended that you brush your teeth twice daily, floss once daily, and visit your dentist twice annually for periodic exams and cleanings."
Dr. Gonchar, "There are several important lifestyle factors that can help you maintain proper oral health. Avoid smoking, vaping, or other tobacco products that are known to increase the risk of oral cancer, periodontal disease, and cavity formation, not to mention faster aging and smoker line formation around the lips. Another important factor is trying to limit alcohol consumption also responsible for increased oral cancers. Food and drink choices also can influence your ability to defend against the formation of cavities. Highly acidic and sugary drinks: sodas and juices, along with processed carbohydrates can overwhelm your oral cavity defense systems against bacteria responsible for cavity formation and periodontal disease. It is important to have a consistent oral hygiene routine and supplement with regular dental visits. Certain medications used to control high blood pressure and certain autoimmune conditions can impact your ability to produce saliva, which is critical in oral pH balance and other important functions, therefore it's critical to hydrate and remember that your systemic health and your oral health are closely intertwined."