8 tips to keep your gums healthy and teeth white

Keeping your teeth clean isn't just an aesthetic concern. Researchers have found a link between periodontal (gum) disease and an increased risk of heart disease. Follow these tips to keep your teeth and gums at their best.

8 tips to keep your gums healthy and teeth white

1. Teeth are what you eat.

If you drink red wine, cola and black tea, or smoke cigarettes, expect your teeth to be not-so-pearly white. Brush immediately after having foods that stain. Use a good bleaching agent from the pharmacy or your dentist. If you have tooth-staining foods when a toothbrush isn't around, eat an apple.

2. Hum while you brush.

Two minutes is the ideal amount of time for brushing to remove bacteria-packed plaque. Use your watch or find a tune that lasts two minutes and hum it to the end.

3. Not so hard.

Contrary to what some scrub-happy people think, brushing with force is not best for removing plaque. Place your toothbrush at a 45 degree angle against your gums and gently move it in a circular motion, rather than a back-and-forth motion. Grip the toothbrush like a pencil so you don't scrub too hard.

4. Drink tea.

Flavonoids and other ingredients in tea seem to prevent harmful bacteria from sticking to teeth, and also block production of a type of sugar that contributes to cavities. Tea also contains high amounts of fluoride.

5. Change toothbrushes.

Same goes for the head of your electric toothbrush — at least every two to three months. Otherwise, you're just transferring bacteria back to your mouth.

6. Use alcohol-free mouthwash.

Most over-the-counter mouthwashes have too much alcohol, which can dry out the tissues in your mouth, making them more susceptible to bacteria — and even increase the risk of oral cancer. Be a teetotaller when it comes to your mouthwash.

7. Clean your tongue.

A major cause of bad breath is the build-up of bacteria on the tongue. Use a tongue scraper every morning to freshen your breath — it's more effective than brushing your tongue with a toothbrush.

8. Avoid sugar.

Sugar plus bacteria equals plaque, which causes bleeding gums, tooth decay and cavities. Acid in sugars and carbonated beverages also dissolve tooth enamel.

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