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5 tips for a healthier, whiter smile

The next time you're getting ready to go out, whether it's to work, on a date, or for girls' night out, take a moment and check out your smile. Is it as healthy and white as you want it to be?

More and more women are asking themselves that very question, and finding that the answer is "No." With the surging popularity of television makeover shows, women are realizing that improving their smile can have a dramatic effect on improving their appearance, boosting their self-confidence and changing their life!

Ready to change yours? Well, there's a lot more to taking care of your pearly whites than just brushing every day. That's why we're giving you five tips to start you on the road to optimum oral health!

1. Off-White is Not Your Color
Over time, habits like drinking coffee and sodas or smoking can stain the enamel of your teeth. If you think that drinking through a straw will help to bypass your teeth, think again -- if you can taste what you're drinking, it's touching your teeth. Even straws cannot prevent harmful sugars and staining liquids from doing their damage. To keep your teeth looking naturally bright, limit or eliminate these unhealthy habits and remember to brush regularly.

2. Put Your Body to Work for You
Beverages like soft drinks, fruit juices and even your favorite sports drink contain high amounts of harmful acids that erode the protective enamel on your teeth, causing serious, sometimes irreversible, damage. The good news is that the best defense against these harmful acids is already in your mouth! Saliva is your body's natural protection for hard and soft oral tissue. So keep your mouth hydrated by drinking plenty of water -- it not only helps to boost your metabolism and quench your thirst, it keeps your mouth moist so your saliva can do its job! If you have to reach for soda pop or a sports drink, be sure to chew a piece of sugar-free gum or candy afterwards to get your saliva glands going.

3. Find Your Perfect Match
Pay close attention to the toothbrush you select. Most dentists recommend using a soft toothbrush with rounded bristle ends that fits the size of your mouth. Remember to replace your toothbrush every two to three months or when the bristles appear to be fraying. There are also some great electric toothbrushes on the market. Ask your dentist for a recommendation on which model would be best for you.

4. Go Ahead... Stick Out Your Tongue
Since you're already brushing your teeth two to three times a day (you are, right?), why not add one more step that will keep you smiling with confidence? "Many people don't realize the benefits of consistently brushing your tongue," says Dr. Louis Malcmacher, a family dentist from Bay Village, Ohio. "Whether you brush your tongue with a toothbrush or specially designed tongue cleaning instrument, both options will keep the bacteria levels of your mouth down and will in turn, keep your breath much fresher."

5. Make Your Dentist Your New Best Friend
Exciting advancements in dental technology are bringing more and more women to the dental office in search of that "Hollywood Smile." During your next appointment, your dentist can tell you all about the latest in whitening: in-office and laser whitening can be completed in 30 minutes to an hour while at-home trays are custom-fit to your mouth and can be used over and over again. Some dentists are even recommending over-the-counter whitening toothpastes and whitening strips.

Not everyone is a candidate for every type of bleaching procedure, so be sure to consult your dentist to find out which option works for you. And remember, you can't judge a tooth by its color! Only your dentist can see the early stages of tooth decay, so schedule a visit at least twice a year to make sure your smile lasts a lifetime. If you don't already have a dentist and would like to find one in your area, call 1-800-DENTIST, the free national dental referral service that provides personal customer care to match you with a dentist who can meet your individual oral health needs--and possibly change your life!

Try these tips and the next time you go out you'll be wearing the hottest new accessory- a healthy, beautiful smile!

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