Your smile impacts how the world perceives you.

Whether we realize it or not, facial expressions, especially smiling, are a huge part of how we communicate. It’s so important to the way we interact with the world that animals we’ve worked closely with for thousands of years, like dogs and horses, have even learned to read our facial expressions. Smiling can also impact the way other people view you, making you seem more friendly or trustworthy and impacting how well a new acquaintance remembers your face.

As a result, our teeth have a huge impact on our social behavior and the way the world perceives us, as well as how we perform essential daily functions, like eating and speaking, so it’s important to keep them healthy, so they’ll last our entire lifetime. Here are a few tips you can use to improve and maintain the health of your teeth, helping you gain a smile that looks and feels better than ever.

1. Maintain a great oral hygiene routine.

A good oral hygiene routine will help you prevent issues, like cavities, bad breath, and gum disease, from appearing in the first place, saving you from spending extra time and money at the dentist for treatments. Your daily routine should include brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day, as well as flossing and using mouthwash once a day. Each of these methods is essential for your oral health because each one cleans a part of your teeth that the others can’t.

Many people avoid flossing because it’s viewed as time-consuming, but it’s the key to preventing periodontitis, which is the leading cause of tooth loss in America. If you don’t floss, you’re leaving an entire surface of your tooth dirty, which allows bacteria to spread to the rest of your teeth quickly. Jamming the floss roughly into your gums will irritate them, so gently work the floss up and down between your teeth when you floss, pressing against the side of each tooth. Your gums might bleed a little at first, but don’t stop flossing; it’s a sign that there’s bacteria present at your gum line, and this should stop after a week or so of regular flossing. Additionally, it’s a good idea to brush your tongue when you brush your teeth because bacteria can build up there and cause bad breath. This routine might sound time-consuming, but with practice, you can complete it thoroughly in less than five minutes.

2. Choose the right tools for oral care.

Surprisingly, the toothbrush you choose can have an impact on your oral health. Brushing too roughly or using a toothbrush with hard bristles can wear away at your enamel over time, causing tooth sensitivity and gradually making your teeth appear more yellow. You can resolve this issue by using a soft-bristled toothbrush and trying to break the habit of scrubbing your teeth clean. If you’re concerned that you’re still brushing too hard, an electric toothbrush might be a good idea. Many models slow down or stop working altogether if you’re exerting too much pressure, which prevents you from damaging your enamel.

3. Use fluoridated products.

Make sure the toothpaste and mouthwash you’re using contain fluoride. Over the past several decades, studies have repeatedly shown that fluoride is beneficial for your teeth by strengthening enamel and fighting cavities. You can also choose a toothpaste and mouthwash that meet your individual needs, such as a toothpaste geared toward sensitive teeth or a mouthwash that helps prevent cavities or gingivitis.

4. Adjust your diet.

When you think about what causes cavities, you likely think about sugary snacks and drinks. While this is certainly true, foods that are high in carbohydrates are also a huge contributing factor because the bacteria in your mouth easily break them down into sugars. To make matters worse, carbs tend to stick to your teeth for a long time, which increases the amount of time bacteria has to break sugars down and produce acid. Snacking or drinking sugary or acidic drinks constantly throughout the day also provides more food for the bacteria and makes it harder for your saliva to do its job of flushing out debris and restoring the pH of your mouth.

As a result, adjusting your diet is healthier for your body and your teeth. You certainly don’t have to stop eating potato chips and candy, but it’s wise to cut back on how much of these foods you eat each day. Switch to eating fruits and vegetables for one larger snack each day, and drink water between meals. In addition to providing key vitamins and minerals, crunchy fruits and vegetables can actually help remove plaque from your teeth as you chew. You may also want to limit foods and drinks that stain your teeth, such as coffee or tomato sauces, so your smile can feel healthier and look brighter.

5. Visit the dentist regularly.

It’s incredibly important for you to visit your dentist for an evaluation every six months, so they can evaluate your oral health and give your teeth a thorough cleaning. During your evaluation, your dentist will be able to remove hardened tartar that you simply can’t get off your teeth at home and spot any issues early. They can also point out areas of your mouth you’re not cleaning as well or offer advice about which mouthwash is best for you. Additionally, if you’re struggling with bad breath despite following a great oral hygiene routine, they can work with you to find and treat the source of your problem.

Our teeth play essential functional and social roles in our daily lives, helping us with everything, from eating to expressing ourselves. Your smile also helps build other people’s first impressions of you, affecting how you’re perceived in both professional and social circles. Thankfully, spending just a few minutes a day on your oral hygiene and making healthier choices can ensure that your smile stays healthy and beautiful for years to come.