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Slideshow: How to Get a Brighter, Better Smile

The Whiter-Teeth Diet

Want a better smile? Start in the kitchen. Over time, eating crunchy fruits and vegetables like celery, carrots, and apples can help keep your teeth white. They trigger your mouth to make saliva, which washes away food particles so they can't stain teeth. Strawberries have an enzyme that acts like natural bleach. Broccoli has minerals that form a film on teeth so pigments from other foods won’t stain them.

Watch Your Drinks

Anything that stains a white shirt -- like coffee, tea, or cola -- can also stain your teeth. If you drink gallons of the stuff every day, try to cut back. And, rinse your mouth with water when you're finished. Do you like wine? Red wine can stain your teeth, but white wine can wear away enamel, causing long-term damage. The damage can be made even worse if you brush right after drinking, when the outer covering is weakened. Try to wait half an hour before brushing.

Makeup Tips for Whiter Teeth

Brighten your smile with easy makeup tips. Slick on a lipstick or gloss in a shade like cherry red, wine, berry, plum, or rosy pink. The blue-based or pink-based undertones will minimize any yellowish tones in your teeth. Try a lip-plumping formula for a fuller pout. Ingredients like cinnamon and mint boost blood flow to the lips. A self-tanner will make the whites of your teeth pop, and heighten the whites of your eyes, too!

Brush, Floss, and Rinse

Follow the basics of good dental hygiene for a dazzling smile. Brush your teeth twice a day -- better yet, after every meal. Replace your toothbrush every 3 or 4 months, or earlier if the bristles start to fray. Floss at least once a day. Rinse with an antibacterial mouthwash to fight plaque and to keep your breath fresh. See your dentist for a professional cleaning regularly.

At-Home Whitening

If you want to brighten your teeth at home, you have plenty of choices. Whitening toothpastes have mild abrasives that remove surface stains with gentle brushing. Drugstore whitening gels, pens, rinses, strips, swabs, and trays work by bleaching teeth with a mild peroxide. Used consistently, these can make your teeth a few shades whiter. Start with a professional cleaning to boost results.

Do-It-Yourself Whitening Recipe

You can whip up some whitener with this do-it-yourself recipe. Mix 1 teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide with a teaspoon of baking soda. Add just enough water to make a paste. Use this instead of your toothpaste once or twice a week. It won’t get rid of dark stains or work like a dental whitening experience, but it may add a little gleam to teeth that are losing their luster. Be careful to use the proper portions. And don't let the mixture sit on your teeth or gums. 

Whitening at the Dentist's Office

See a dentist for the quickest ways to remove stains and whiten teeth. In the office, a dentist paints your teeth with a peroxide gel, then activates the solution with a light or laser. Or your dentist can give you a custom-fitted mouth guard to use at home. Be sure to follow the dentist's instructions for using a safe and effective gel and for the appropriate length of time.

Cosmetic Injections for Your Smile

If you feel thin lips and fine lines are ruining your smile, cosmetic injections might help. Hyaluronic acid fillers can plump up your pout. They can also pad the creases that run from your nose to the corners of the mouth. An injection of Botox can smooth out fine wrinkles around your lips -- sometimes called "smoker’s lines." If you smoke, stop! It'll help keep those lines from coming back.

Bonding: A Small Fix for Teeth

If your teeth are chipped, broken, cracked, or badly stained, bonding can be an easy fix. It can also be used to fill small gaps between teeth. In this cosmetic procedure, a tooth-colored resin is applied and molded like putty to your tooth. Then, a high-intensity light is used to harden the material. The final step: polishing the new bonded tooth. Bonding can be done in a single visit.

Veneers for a Smile Makeover

When teeth are badly stained, crooked, or misshapen, fixes like bleaching or bonding might not be enough. Porcelain veneers are pricier than these treatments and take two visits to the dentist instead of one. But they can transform uneven yellow teeth into a straight row of pearly whites. As thin as .2 millimeter, veneers are custom-,made to fit the front surface of the tooth. 

Correct a Gummy Smile

If you have a gummy smile, the fix could be a surgery called "crown lengthening." Under local anesthesia, a periodontist cuts away extra tissue to expose the full length of your front teeth. The surgery may take only an hour or less, and recovery depends on how much work was done. The cost: several hundred dollars a tooth. 

Braces for Beauty

Braces aren't just for kids. They can straighten crooked teeth and close gaps for adults who have lived with a less-than-perfect smile their whole lives. They can also correct an overbite or underbite. That may save you from losing teeth later in life or needing surgery. Braces can be made with ceramic, tooth-colored brackets or even clear plastic. And, in some cases, they may need to be worn only 6 to 12 months.

Choosing the Right Dentist

Helping you keep a bright and healthy smile is an important part of what every dentist does. For some things, however, your dentist may recommend a specialist. An orthodontist straightens teeth. A prosthodontist restores teeth that are missing or that need special repairs. A periodontist specializes in taking care of gums. An endodontist specializes in root canals. Ask your dentist for a recommendation.

The Emotional Upside of Smiling

The benefits of smiling are enough to make you, well, smile. Seeing a smile can give people the same feel-good boost as eating 2,000 chocolate bars. Turn the corners of your mouth up into a grin when you’re stressed, and you’ll feel calmer. Smiling lowers blood pressure and releases the body’s natural painkillers. When you smile, people like and trust you more. They also think you’re younger than you are.

Beautiful Smile

Reviewed by Michael Friedman, DDS on February 11, 2014

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  • Healthy Mouth

    Follow these simple steps for basic oral health.

  • Beautiful Smile

    From braces to whitening, get pointers on how to look your best.

  • Kids' Teeth

    How to help your little ones take care of their teeth.

  • Expert Answers

    Advice from dentists on everything from bad breath to fillings.

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