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Best Tips and Tools to Whiten Your Smile

Turn back time with the latest lip enhancers, tooth whiteners, and more.
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Tooth Care (Or Consequences) continued...

4. Ask your dentist to check the state of your fillings. "Every filling eventually has to be replaced," says New York City dentist Marc Lowenberg, D.D.S. Silver, or amalgam, lasts between 10 and 20 years, so your childhood dental work may be overdue for replacement. Fresh fillings can help prevent tooth decay and loss - and, down the road, root canals and implants.

5. Consider orthodontics if your teeth have shifted significantly. "Your jaw is shifting along with your teeth," says Apa. "Left unchecked, the situation can create a collapsed look" (think Disney's Evil Queen disguised as the old lady in Snow White). Invisalign or behind-the-teeth braces are the subtlest options for grown-ups. Ranging from $3,500 to $8,000, the investment for them isn't small. But the long-term payoff is big.

Lip Service

The skin surrounding your mouth and teeth is as much an element of a youthful smile as your teeth themselves. Your lips, like all exposed skin, need a high-SPF, broad-spectrum sunscreen: "UV damage can manifest as inflammation of the lips, redness and flaking, and, over time, wrinkling and even cancer," says Macrene Alexiades, Ph.D., M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. An important aside: Though skin cancer of the lips is uncommon, when it does form, it tends to spread to the lymph nodes very quickly. Try Blistex Five Star Lip Protection ($2.50, drugstores) with SPF 30 or Kiehl's Lip Balm SPF 15 ($9.50, kiehls.com).

To combat wrinkling of the skin around the mouth, start with Olay Professional Pro X Deep Wrinkle Treatment ($42, drugstores) for eight weeks; if you don't see results, move up to prescription Renova. For pronounced peaks and valleys, you may want to ask your dermatologist about injectables. A hyaluronic acid filler like Juvéderm or Restylane - ranging in price from a few hundred to a thousand dollars or so, depending on the area you're treating and the area you live in - is delicate enough to plump the fine lines above and below the mouth. Dr. Alexiades likes to pair one of the aforementioned fillers with Botox. "It's the best crowd-pleaser for instant gratification," she says.

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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