Perfecting Your Smile

How far does a good smile go, and what you can do to improve your own.

The British are routinely mocked for their notoriously unruly grins. Crooked and yellowed, these smiles are often thought of as huge turnoffs, which is generally why we Americans often strive to prove ourselves dentally superior to our English counterparts (regardless of true or untrue our perception of their teeth is).

So much do we value our teeth, that in a survey conducted by the American Dental Association (ADA), almost 81% of people between the ages of 18 and 65 agreed that a nice smile is an important aspect of one’s appearance. In fact, 47% of women and 27% of men said it was the first thing they noticed about someone.  Most men said that keeping a healthy mouth was important for eating and keeping up appearances, while women cited appearance, as well as the prevention of tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss as top reasons for keeping their chompers looking good.  Appearance, while upon first mention can seem like a superficial reason for wanting good teeth, is also practical. Studies show smiles are the most easily recognizable facial expression, even when observed from far distances. So when trying to locate a friend in a crowd, it is easier to recognize them when they are smiling, as opposed to scowling.

Smiles also indicate confidence and approachability, traits that can come in handy in both your personal and professional life. Speaking in regards to personal lives, ADA studies show that 71% of people believe those with nice smiles make friends easier and are happier, while professionally, marketing strategists often recommend smiling as a tool to convey trust and empathy to their clients and to improve business relations.

For one reason or another, 99% of those surveyed by the ADA said that healthy teeth and gums were important to them. To help keep your chompers clean and your smile gorgeous, here are a few easy tooth care tips to follow:

1. Brushing (a no-brainer) is the easiest way to keep your teeth healthy. It removes plague (bacteria that sticks to your teeth), which when combined with food creates acids that can lead to cavities.

Brush at a 45-degree angle, in a circular motion, moving up and down. Bristles should go in between spaces in the teeth.

Brush for two to three minutes in the morning, at night and after every meal if you can.

Quick fact: women brush their teeth more times per day than men do.

Keep toothbrushes no longer than four months, once the bristles fray, the brush stops working.

Brush your tongue too, it helps remove bacteria and freshen your breath.

Bring a portable, waterless toothbrush to meals when you eat out. Toss it in your purse and do a quick brush in the bathroom after eating.

2. Maintaing a healthy diet is another important part of the preventive action of tooth decay, and can make all of the difference in the whiteness of your teeth.

Avoid dark drinks, especially coffee and tea (sorry), as they can cause teeth to darken or take on a yellowish cast.

Avoid sugary drinks, foods and gum.

Snack foods like chips, crackers and pretzels can stick to teeth, making it easier for plaque to develop

Tea (remember the Brits) can lead to dark circles around the bottom of teeth, that look almost like the remnants of an empty cup.

3. The dentist doesn’t tell you to floss just because he likes to hear himself talk, he does it because it works! Flossing drags out the food and plague from hard to reach places that brushing can’t.

Bleeding while gently flossing can be a sign of plaque buildup, which means you need to do it more often.

Quick fact: Not only do women brush more often that men, but they floss more too.

Reach behind your back teeth to floss, plaque can build up there too.

Most importantly, pay a visit to your dentist once every six months so they can truly assess the status of your teeth. If you keep with your diet, brushing and flossing, it shouldn’t be so bad. Besides, how else are you going to be able to show those Brits what good teeth look like?

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