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How To Keep Your Smile Pretty And Healthy
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These days, it seems like everyone's obsessed with getting a blindingly white grill. But there's more to taking good care of your mouth than having a soap-star smile.

The condition of your teeth and gums is associated with a host of other health issues that involve your hormones and your heart, and your dental needs can change from decade to decade. Here's how to keep smiling strong at any age.

Your 30s: Heed your hormones
If you're pregnant, you might not feel like dragging yourself to the dentist, but you should do it. Higher levels of estrogen and particularly progesterone can result in puffy, tender gums that are vulnerable to minor infection.

Flossing is especially important, experts say, because it helps cut the risk of periodontitis, a more serious gum infection that can endanger more than your teeth: some studies have linked untreated periodontal disease to preterm and low-birth-weight babies.

Ditch the diet cola
Even sugar-free soda can destroy your pearly whites, thanks to the high acid content of most carbonated beverages. "Acid weakens enamel and makes it softer," Dr. Jones says. A fluoride rinse can help strengthen it.

Your 40s: Book your appointment
No matter how busy you are, make time for the dentist because he can spot signs of serious illness that shouldn't be ignored. For example, gum disease can be a sign of uncontrolled diabetes.

Plus, oral cancer is more common after 40; your dentist will look for symptoms, such as unusual swelling or sores, as well as painless lesions.

Get off the daily grind
Grinding or clenching your teeth (which can intensify if you're stressed) can cause excessive wear and even cracking and chipping. "A lot of tooth wear starts to show up in the late 30s and 40s," Dr. Jones says. “Your dentist can see if you're grinding, because areas of the tooth enamel will be worn smooth."

If your teeth show these signs, your dentist can give you a mouth guard. Stress-management techniques can also help you keep from clenching.

Wet your whistle
Many medications (including antidepressants and heart or pain meds) can dry out your mouth, which ups the risk of tooth decay. If you have dry mouth, Dr. Jones recommends using a fluoride rinse at night, which can help protect the enamel. Drinking lots of water or chewing sugarless gum can also help.

Take heart
Studies show that people with periodontal disease may have higher risks of heart attack and stroke, possibly because the infection increases inflammation throughout the body.

"I can't say that you're going to have a heart attack if you don't take care of your teeth," Dr. Cram says. "But if you have a family history of heart disease or other heart disease risk factors, it's a good idea to pay extra attention to your oral health."
Source: Health.com

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