6 Ways to Make Your Smile Sparkle
If you’re looking for an easy way to look younger without breaking your piggy bank, a recent study conducted at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin suggests that all you have to do is smile. Researchers found that strangers are more likely to underestimate a person’s age if she is smiling, and it doesn’t get much easier than that! However, according to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), a smile soured by damaged or yellow teeth has the exact opposite effect and tends to make you appear even older than your years. Fortunately, there are many ways — both low- and high-tech — to achieve a beautiful, white smile. From eating crunchy fruits and veggies to selecting certain shades of lipstick and bronzer, here’s what leading cosmetic dentists recommend to make your smile sparkle — and look younger while you’re at it!
1. Focus on Flossing
What is the No. 1 way to a bright, white smile? “It sounds boring, but plain-old basic oral hygiene is where one starts,” says Thomas Connelly, DDS, New York City-based cosmetic dentist and weekly contributor to the Huffington Post. Dr. Connelly recommends brushing your teeth after every meal — and even packing a toothbrush for an “after lunch” work brush. “Flossing every day will also go a long way in making your smile look good.” Because even the best toothbrushes and mouthwash can’t reach every crevice between your teeth, proper flossing is a sure way to prevent bacteria and plaque buildup in your mouth that, if uncontrolled, make it easier for foods, drinks and tobacco to accumulate and stain your teeth.
2. Boost Your Calcium and Vitamin C Intake
Since a healthy mouth and white smile are so closely correlated, maintaining strong teeth is another way to keep your smile looking bright. Eating a balanced diet filled with certain teeth-fortifying nutrients will help fend off oral health problems that can detract from a pretty smile, such as tooth decay, erosion, and periodontal disease. Calcium is needed to grow and develop both baby and adult teeth and even strengthens your jawbone. If you’re looking for some of the best foods to maintain a strong, healthy bite, go for calcium-rich low-fat and fat-free milk, cheeses, cruciferous vegetables (green leafy vegetables like cabbage, bok choy, broccoli, and cauliflower), and calcium-fortified juices, breakfast cereals, breads, or soy products.
Vitamin C is another nutrient that helps maintain strong teeth by working as an antioxidant to repair tissue and prevent disease-causing bacteria from penetrating the gums, so those cruciferous veggies — particularly broccoli — will do double duty, since they’re rich in both calcium and vitamin C.
In addition, any crunchy fruits and veggies, like apples and carrots, are good for your teeth, since chewing them increases levels of saliva, which can help protect the teeth from plaque-causing bacteria by breaking down food caught between teeth. Similarly, drinking plenty of water also helps rid your mouth of such bacteria (especially after meals) while also helping to prevent stains and protect your teeth from the harmful effects of acidic foods and beverages, according to the AACD. Chewing sugarless gum is another simple way to trigger saliva — a natural way to fight acid and keep your teeth looking bright.
3. Forget Food and Drink Foes
Conversely, there are also foods that can put your white smile in jeopardy. Avoid sodas — even diet! — and sugary foods, especially hard, sticky, or gummy candies. Acidic foods, like citrus, may appear healthy but aren’t particularly good for your chompers: they can weaken tooth enamel and create an environment for cavity-causing bacteria to thrive. This can ultimately cause tooth decay and discoloration that appears as bright white spots on the teeth.
And foods and beverages that stain teeth are — obviously — huge threats to your white smile as well. “Red wine, coffee, and tea tend to cause the most staining,” according to dental experts Donna Zak, DDS, of Zak and Frankel Dental Associates, and Gregg Lituchy, DDS, of Lowenberg & Lituchy, both based in New York City. Connelly adds that refraining from tobacco use is a huge step in the right direction as well, since it’s a major tooth-staining culprit.
4. Try Professional Bleaching
Teeth whitening by a skilled dentist is a faster and more effective way to get a white smile than over-the-counter products. Professional chairside bleaching treatments like Zoom! or BriteSmile use a much higher concentration of whitening ingredients than OTC whiteners and incorporate laser technology that is thought to penetrate teeth and facilitate a deeper whitening effect — and usually only take about one hour. “This works very well, but most patients still need to follow up with at-home custom bleaching trays or white strips to get the teeth to the desired shade,” says Dr. Zak. Zak also recommends another method called KöR Whitening Deep Bleaching System, which combines chairside bleaching with home application for better results. Prices for in-office treatments vary, but can easily set you back $500-1,000.
5. Choose a DIY Whitener
If you don’t want to shell out for a pro treatment, some OTC methods can help to brighten your smile. Zak says that Aquafresh trays work well, and Dr. Lituchy recommends Crest Whitestrips. Lituchy adds that whitening strips combined with whitening toothpaste are a good “one-two punch” toward achieving a white smile: “The whitening toothpaste removes the external surface stains, whereas whitening strips penetrate the deeper tooth layers to actually bleach the teeth.” Connelly typically recommends the GO SMiLE brand of toothpastes and whiteners.
6. Fake It With Makeup
If you’re looking for an even faster solution than an over-the-counter whitening kit can offer, try a new makeup routine to get a whiter smile on the go. “One way to make teeth ‘appear’ brighter instantly is by wearing shades of lipstick that have a blue undertone, as well as makeup, such as bronzer, to darken the skin tone so there is a greater contrast to the teeth,” says Lituchy.