Flip through the pages of any magazine, and it's filled with toothy smiles—all pearly and perfectly shaped. Turn on the television, and you'll see whitening-product advertisements full of smiling actors with bright, white teeth. We're a smile-happy culture. The good news is that achieving a healthy, confident smile may be closer than you think! First, understand that it's normal for your teeth to show signs of age. When you consider all the wear and tear teeth take—such as chewing three meals per day, every day—it's no surprise that your pearly whites can start to lose their luster. But with a bit of basic care, and perhaps some professional help, you can recapture that youthful, healthy smile.
Heed the Brushing Basics
You've heard it a zillion times, but it's so essential we have to remind you again: Brush, brush, brush! Brushing removes plaque, which builds up on the surfaces of your teeth. Dental technology has come a long way in the past few decades, but brushing twice a day and flossing once a day remain your best defenses against tooth decay and gum problems.
Learn the Brushing Secrets
Here's what you may not know: The American Dental Association® (ADA) recommends changing your toothbrush every three to four months. Another tip: Be careful of brushing too aggressively. Pressing too hard can wear away the enamel on your teeth.
Whiten and Brighten
The best place to start your quest for whiter teeth is at your dentist's office. Routine cleanings (the ADA recommends every six months) can do wonders. A whitening toothpaste also can make a big difference. Look for one that uses a non-bleaching action (the only kind of over-the-counter whitening toothpaste with the ADA Seal of Acceptance).
Invest in More Permanent Changes
Cosmetic dentistry options, such as bonding, veneers, and enamel shaping, may be for you. Bonding can cover stains and fix tooth chips. Veneers, which are like slipcovers for your teeth, can treat gaps or permanently stained teeth. Enamel shaping, which contours your tooth enamel to create a smooth line, is a good option for fixing uneven teeth. New, less-invasive products and procedures are always being introduced—check with your dentist to find out more.
Choose Snacks Wisely
You're better off avoiding candy and sugary drinks such as soda during the day. Plaque, which is a film of bacteria, constantly forms on your teeth. Sugary foods or drinks cause this bacteria to produce acids that attack tooth enamel, which leads to tooth decay. If you're going to have a piece of candy, eat it for dessert and then brush your teeth.
Protect Your Lips
A winning smile has another component other than healthy teeth: Don't forget about those luscious lips! If you're spending time in the sun, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends protecting your lips with a sunblock for lips that has an SPF of at least 15. Look for a broad-spectrum product that guards against both UVA and UVB rays.
Practice Makes Perfect
You don't need perfect teeth to have a pretty smile; sometimes it's about attitude. If you feel confident, you'll look more confident. Practice good posture by standing tall and straight. Walk with purpose. And look people directly in the eye when you smile at them. You'll soon find that the more you smile, the better you'll feel.
Read more about how to brush your teeth and other oral care tips.