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Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body

With the mouth and body so closely linked, dentists and physicians should collaborate more closely, Karabin says. "Physicians need to be trained to examine the mouth, and dentists need to understand more about systemic disease so they can pick up on some of the cues."

The findings also serve to bring home the importance of oral hygiene. Brush twice a day with a toothbrush with soft or medium bristles, Genco says. Clean between your teeth daily with floss, or try some of the interdental picks available at drugstores. If your gums bleed with flossing and don't stop after three to four days, see your dentist.

In most cases, gum disease isn't painful. So even if you're feeling fine, visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams. You may find out more than you ever expected. "Today, more dentists aren't just looking at teeth and gums," says Cram. "They're giving you a good medical exam."

Tips for Pretty Teeth and Gums

See how to keep your teeth healthy, white, and even.
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