11 Steps to a Healthy, Beautiful Smile

  • smiling woman in office
    Your Smile's About More Than Just Looks
    A healthy smile is not only part of our ideal standard of beauty, but it's also an important part of our overall health. If we don't care for our teeth and gums, bacteria build up on our teeth in the form of plaque. This can cause tooth decay, which leads to cavities, and gingivitis, a form of gum disease. However, you can prevent gum and tooth problems and maintain a healthy smile with these 11 steps.

  • man applying toothpaste to toothbrush
    1. Brush With Clean Bristles
    Brush twice daily and use toothpaste with fluoride. Replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed.

  • container of dental floss on table
    2. Floss Daily
    Floss removes food particles and plaque that your toothbrush can't reach.

  • Use Mouthwash
    3. Consider a Rinse
    Use a fluoride mouth rinse. Studies show that using both fluoride toothpaste and a rinse is more effective than using fluoride toothpaste alone in preventing tooth decay. Mouth rinse is not recommended for children ages 6 or younger.

  • portrait of smiling female dentist
    4. Visit the Dentist
    See your dentist regularly to have your teeth cleaned and mouth examined.

  • Lots of jellybeans
    5. Skip Sugar
    Any food that contains sugar can contribute to tooth decay, so avoid foods like soft drinks, candy, cookies, and pastries, all of which are high in sugar. Also, limit between-meal snacks. Every time you eat sugar, your teeth are more vulnerable for 20 minutes afterward.

  • glasses-of-water
    6. Check for Fluoride
    Be aware that fluoride, which is added to tap water to help prevent cavities, may be at low levels in some filtered water and most bottled water. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a label for bottled water that contains the recommended levels of fluoride. Most water filters don't remove fluoride, but the ones that use steam distillation, reverse osmosis, or activated alumina do.

  • Dad helping son with schoolwork
    7. Protect Your Little Ones
    Fluoride found in water is safe and beneficial for both children and adults, so make sure your children are drinking water with fluoride in it to protect their teeth.

  • cigarette-stubs-in-ashtray
    8. Quit Smoking
    Smoking is a major cause of and contributor to gum diseases among adults. Along with other major health concerns, smoking can cause oral cancers, delay healing after a dental procedure, and stain teeth.

  • woman selecting shade of white for teeth at dentist
    9. Consider a Whitening Procedure
    If you would like to whiten your teeth, talk with your dentist about your options. Your dentist can recommend an effective procedure based on your type of discoloration and whether you have had bonding or tooth-colored fillings. Options include chair-side bleaching, which takes place in your dentist's office, over-the-counter bleaching solutions that contain peroxide, and whitening toothpastes that contain mild abrasives.

  • woman shopping for dental products
    10. Search for the Seal
    When you buy a whitening product—or any oral hygiene product—look for the American Dental Association Seal of Approval. This shows that the product meets safety and effectiveness standards.


  • portrait of smiling female dentist
    11. Know Your Risk
    You can improve your oral health and overall health by working with your dentist and physician to decrease your risks for tooth decay, gum disease, and more.

11 Steps to a Healthy, Beautiful Smile
  1. FDA Approves Claim That Bottled Water with Fluoride Reduces Caries Risk. American Dental Association. http://www.ada.org/prof/resources/topics/science_fluoride_bottled.asp
  2. Cleaning Your Teeth and Gums (Oral Hygiene). American Dental Association. http://www.ada.org/public/topics/cleaning.asp
  3. Diet and Oral Health. American Dental Association. http://www.ada.org/public/topics/diet.asp
  4. Home Water Treatment Systems. American Dental Association. http://www.ada.org/public/topics/documents/art_water_home.pdf
  5. Fluoride and Fluoridation. American Dental Association. http://www.ada.org/public/topics/fluoride/infantsformula_faq.asp
  6. Oral-Systematic Health (Your Oral Health and Overall Health). American Dental Association. http://www.ada.org/public/topics/oralsystemic.asp#perio
  7. Smoking (Tobacco) Cessation. American Dental Association. http://www.ada.org/public/topics/smoking_tobacco_faq.asp
  8. Tooth Whitening Treatments. American Dental Association. http://www.ada.org/public/topics/whitening_faq.asp
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Last Review Date: 2019 Jun 5
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