By: Godfrey Onime, MD
Your smile is how you greet people, and most likely a frequent expression used in conversation. From sealing the deal at a business meeting to a first date, it will be part of many important moments. Hence, you don’t want to be self-conscious of your smile.
Over time, your mouth goes through a lot of wear and tear. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help your smile stay sparkling for longer. Here are seven habits you should start now.
1. Sip Acidic Beverages through a Straw
A lot of your favorite beverages may have a pH level of 3 or lower. These include soda, sports drinks, and fruit juices. These acidic beverages come in contact with your teeth and start damaging the enamel – the coating that protects your teeth. One study showed the top offenders for erosion were Sprite, apple juice, and orange juice.
You don’t need to stop drinking your favorite beverages. Fruit juices obviously offer many health benefits. It would be a good idea to invest in some straws, though. This way you can enjoy your drink without bathing your teeth in it.
Drinks that don’t need a straw include water, unsweetened tea, and milk.
2. Get Plenty of Iron, Vitamin C and Calcium
Iron – A deficiency in iron can lead to tongue sores, which makes speaking and eating painful and awkward. Red meat is a good source of iron, and nuts and spices offer a good amount as well.
Vitamin C – Your gum tissue needs Vitamin C to stay health, and unhealthy gum tissue can lead to loose teeth. Foods high in this vitamin include sweet potatoes and oranges.
Calcium – Your bones need calcium to stay strong, and that’s just what your teeth are. Dairy and beans can give you a good calcium boost.
3. Don’t Brush Immediately After a Meal
While brushing after meals is recommended, doing so right away is not. It’s better to wait 30-60 minutes before brushing, especially after acidic foods and beverages. Acidic drinks were listed earlier, and you can add pickles, cranberries, and tomatoes to the list of acidic foods.
A study by Thomas Attin, of the Department of Operative Dentistry, of Georg August University, in Göttingen, Germany showed how brushing immediately can aggravate the erosion of the tooth enamel, and push the acid to the layer below it, called dentin.
4. Use Fluoride Toothpaste
Fluoride is an ingredient in many toothpastes, used to remove plaque and strengthen tooth enamel. In fact, all ADA-accepted toothpastes contain fluoride.
The only people who should not use fluoride are those who are allergic and children under two years of age.
5. Pick Better Snacks
If you snack smarter, you’ll be helping your teeth along with your waistline. Look to limit carbs and simple sugars, as these both contribute to plaque buildup by getting in between the teeth and in the gum line.
Better snacks include apples, celery, and carrots, which also help scrub the teeth as you eat them. Cheese is another good choice, as it helps make saliva and contains calcium.
6. Relieve Stress
Stress can affect your smile in a couple ways. Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is something that people with a high amount of stress tend to do. This grinding often happens at night, and can cause a lot of damage to teeth. A night guard can help prevent damage from grinding, but you should also look into ways to reduce your overall stress.
Studies have shown that individuals who have difficulty handling stress also have a greater risk of gingivitis and periodontitis. Drinking tea may help with this, as it’s known to help with stress and the antioxidants are good for gums.
7. Promote Saliva Production
Saliva plays an important role in keeping the mouth healthy. It contains bicarbonate, calcium, and phosphate. To keep saliva going, chew on sugar-free gum, such as those sweetened with sweetened with xylitol. According to a pamphlet by the American Dental Hygienists Associations, chewing on sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after eating or drinking can increase saliva production by 10 ten times the normal rate.
Kissing also happens to increase saliva production.
Don’t neglect your smile – keep it healthy and long-lasting by following these tips you’ve just learned.
About the Author
Dr. Godfrey Onime is a practicing physician in Lumberton, North Carolina. His essays have appeared in the New York Times, Guideposts Magazine, and the collection of Stories, The Country Doctor Revisited, among others. Besides practicing medicine, he teaches medical students and residents, and enjoys writing and editing for HealAway. Follow him on Twitter @GodfreyOnime.