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As you get older, everyday wear and tear takes a toll on your teeth. But there's plenty you can do to keep them in great shape. Follow these rules and you’ll have lots to smile about as the birthday candles pile up on your cake.

Cut Down Wear and Tear

Your teeth are crazy strong. Still, they can be worn down. All that chewing, grinding, and biting wears away the enamel -- that hard, outer layer of your teeth. It also flattens the parts you use when you bite and chew.

You can't erase a lifetime of wear and tear, without having it restored by a dentist, but you can keep it from getting worse. Don't chew ice or other hard foods. That can cause chips in your enamel and even broken teeth.

Keep Your Gums Healthy

Bacteria, called plaque is always forming on your teeth. If you don't remove it, it can cause soreness, swelling, and bleeding in your gums. It can even cause infections that hurt the bone underneath.

Your dentist will treat serious gum disease, called periodontitis. If you let it go unchecked, it could harm your gums and bones. Once that happens, you may need to have teeth removed.

Signs of gum disease include:

  • Bleeding when you brush your teeth
  • Gums that recede, or pull back from your teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Bad breath

The best way to keep your gums in good shape is to take good care of your teeth. Brush twice a day and floss every day. See your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings. If you smoke, quit.

Don’t Let Your Mouth Dry Out

Saliva helps clean teeth and protects your mouth from decay. But as you get older, your mouth gets drier and your odds of tooth decay go up. Your medication could be to blame. Lots of drugs dry you out. To fight back, drink more water. Hold it in your mouth for a few seconds before you swallow. You can also suck on sugarless candy or chew sugarless gum. If you think drugs are the cause, talk to your doctor about changing them.

Tips for Pretty Teeth and Gums

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