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7 Secrets to a Healthier Smile

A top dentist shares his professional tips -- and personal habits -- for keeping teeth in tip-top shape.

5. Seeing the dentist may save your life.

People are slowly realizing that gum disease might be a sign of heart disease. Some studies indicate a connection but more research needs to be done. It's all about inflammation -- be it of the gums or of the arteries of the heart. Some studies show that bacteria in gum disease is also in plaques in heart arteries. Seeing the dentist can benefit not only your smile and the whiteness of your teeth, but also your overall health.

6. The mouth tells no lies.

I can tell so much about a person just peering into their mouth. I can see if they have certain habits or issues -- whether they drink a lot of soda or coffee and if they have had a drug problem in the past or present. If they are experiencing a lot of stress, they may grind or clench their teeth, leading to gum recession or telltale wear patterns. Acid erosion patterns can betray a bulimic. Bad breath can even say a lot -- be it acid reflux, a poor diet, or even diabetes. You just can't hide these things once you open your mouth.

7. Not all whites are right.

There's no one-size-fits-all shade of white. If you bring in a picture of someone whose bright smile you admire, it's entirely possible it won't suit you. It depends on your coloring and your teeth. It's a bit like hair color in that respect. Everyone has a different potential for whiteness.

Steven Roth's Dental Habits

Ever wonder how much of their own advice dentists follow? Roth is one health professional who practices what he preaches.

How often do you get a new toothbrush?  

Every 90 days, right after I get my cleaning -- it's easy to remember that way. I use a mechanical toothbrush, so I just swap out the old head for a new one.

If you can't brush, what do you do?

I rinse with [a mouthwash] to kill bacteria. (I also like to dip my toothbrush in it, but I guess this is when you have no brush on hand.) If nothing else is available, I rinse with warm water.

Do you have a special brushing technique?

Well, do you count brushing my teeth while I'm in the shower as special? Hey -- it's very efficient and I like to multitask! Also, I often floss three times a day -- I just love the feeling.

Confess: Do you have any bad habits that you usually advise patients to break?

I'm pretty virtuous -- no ice-chewing, candy-eating, or soda- or coffee-drinking for me.

What's the last thing in your nightly dental routine?

I put in my bite-guard. Yup, I have one, and I think a huge percentage of people could benefit from one. They help prevent a lot of the damage from nighttime clenching or grinding.

Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of "WebMD the Magazine."

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Reviewed on August 12, 2012

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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