Protect your teeth.
Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages
Poor dental care and oral hygiene not only can change the way you look, but Dr. Michael Roizen says they can also cause health problems like heart disease, stroke, memory loss, impotence and wrinkles of the skin.

Keep your 32 teeth clean and strong with advice from Dr. Roizen, Dr. Oz and Dr. Arthur Perry, plus author and dentist to the stars Dr. Jonathan Levine.

Protect your teeth and keep your mouth beautiful and healthy.

Brush your teeth twice a day.
Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation
Most of us are brushing incorrectly—following these steps will keep you and your dentist happy, Dr. Levine says.
  • Use a rounded-end, soft-bristle brush.
  • Brush twice a day for 30 seconds in each quadrant, or a total of two minutes
  • Angle the brush 45 degrees to the gumline—you want the bristles to get under the gum, gently.
  • Replace your toothbrush every 30 to 45 days, because toothbrush heads harbor bacteria.
  • Use a toothbrush sanitizer, and make sure to let the toothbrush air-dry, rather than storing it in a damp environment or in a drawer.

Pick the right toothpaste.

Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation
The type of toothpaste you use isn't that important, as long as it's something you like and will use and you are brushing and flossing for an adequate amount of time, Dr. Levine says. However, if you're prone to getting cavities, you need a high-fluoride toothpaste. If you're prone to gum disease, make sure you're seeing a dentist twice a year.

Join the floss revolution.

Make sure you floss regularly.
Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation
If you don't floss, you miss cleaning about 40 percent of each tooth, which can lead to tooth decay, Dr. Roizen says.

According to Dr. Levine, only 10 percent of Americans are flossing regularly, a very low number considering it's one of the most important things we can do for ourselves. Proper flossing contributes to good gum health and lowers the risk of heart attacks, among other problems.

What to look for in mouthwash

Check the alcohol content of mouthwash. Alcohol can dry out the mouth, lowering the pH balance and killing the protective mechanisms in saliva. Newer mouthwashes are trending toward alcohol-free formulations.

Should you chew gum?

Chewing gum acts as an exfoliant, taking off plaque and stains, exercising muscles and increasing saliva flow. Make sure you're chewing gum that is sugar-free gum—sugarless gum can still contain some amount of sugar.

The best way to fight bad breath

A lot of people have bad breath and don't know it because Dr. Oz says it is difficult to smell your own breath. "Breathe into the face of someone you trust and ask, 'Is my breath acceptable to you?'" Dr. Oz says. If your breath is bad, use a tongue scraper to remove some of the bacteria that cause the smell and talk with your dentist about other remedies.

Don't grind your teeth.

Talk to your dentist about wearing a mouth guard at night if you grind your teeth, Dr. Oz says. Grinding your teeth can be a sign of stress, and if you continue doing it, you can wear down your teeth and actually widen your face, Dr. Perry says. "The [muscle under the jaw] enlarges when we grind our teeth and when we go to sleep at night," he says.

Protect your lips.

Dr. Perry suggests wearing a lip balm or lip gloss made with sunscreen year-round. Lips can get sunburned in the winter just as easily as in the summer, and that can lead to skin cancer, he says. Also, Dr. Perry says you should choose a lip gloss or balm made with beeswax.

How diet affects teeth

According to Dr. Levine, your diet can affect the health of your mouth. If the pH balance of your saliva is too acidic, it can hurt the tissue and demineralize the teeth. Eating fruits, vegetables and other healthy, colorful foods will help the balance. Sensitivity to cold, heat or sweetness is usually an indicator that there is some decay in the teeth or some root exposure—it's time to check with a dentist.

Find the right dentist for your needs.

How to find a dentist.
Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation
Finding the right dentist can be a challenge. Dr. Levine suggests calling the dental program at a local university and asking who they recommend in the area. Periodontists are another good source for recommendations. If possible, interview the dentist on the phone to see if he or she is a good fit. A visit to the office can provide information about the courtesy of the staff, the appearance of the space and the quality of the technology.

What to ask for at your next dentist's appointment

Whether you're visiting a new dentist or just back for your six-month checkup, consider asking about these important tests.
  • X-rays
    Patients should get a complete set of X-rays every three to five years. During regular checkups—which should be scheduled every six months to a year—X-rays should be taken of individual teeth that may have cracks or cavities. Pregnant women should not have X-rays.
  • Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Syndrome
    Clenching, grinding or bad alignment of teeth can cause this disorder. Even if you don't notice symptoms (headaches, jaw pain), your dentist should look at your bite and feel your jaw to ensure there is no stress to the joints.
  • Periodontal Exam
    Have your gums receded? Your dentist should take measurements annually around each tooth to detect any gum disease.
  • Oral Cancer
    The inside of your mouth and the glands in your neck area should be checked each year.
  • Oral Surgery
    Anytime you receive general anesthesia, an oral surgeon, a surgical assistant and another assistant should be on hand to monitor your vital signs using an EKG, a blood pressure monitor and a pulse oximeter. Either the oral surgeon must be licensed in anesthesiology by the state dental board (the license should be displayed in the office) or there must be an anesthesiologist present.
To whiten, or not to white—that is the question!

If you decide on tooth whitening, it's best done under the guidelines of a dentist who can help you determine the best method for you, Dr. Levine says. Over-the-counter whiteners are effective, but make sure to use a strip or paint-on system and read the directions carefully.

Some tooth stains are intrinsic—they are created internally by genetics, Dr. Levine says. These stains need a true whitener, done in a dentist's office. Extrinsic tooth stains, which can be created by smoking and consuming things like coffee, red wine and soy sauce, benefit from a good cleaning and an over-the-counter whitener. Good brushing and flossing habits will prevent most of these stains.

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