For the 76 percent of us with a dental complaint we can’t shake, help is here. These five simple swaps can help improve dental hygiene, leave your smile healthy, and boost your well-being too!
Tiny “pores” on teeth enlarge as we age, giving stains from coffee and tea more crevices to stick to. The fix: Add milk to your mug. Canadian scientists say its casein binds to tannins that yellow teeth and whisks them away. Plus, it blocks future stains by fortifying enamel. The payoff, says Ava Chow, PhD: teeth as light as if you used peroxide whitening strips. Bonus: Strong enamel lessens hypertension risk by up to 50 percent, suggests research out of England.
Over time, bacteria has an easier time breeding and sticking to teeth, dulling your smile. But swishing with coconut oil pulls harmful microbes from the mouth, reducing plaque 30 percent — that’s better than antibacterial mouthwash. Swish with two tablespoons of coconut oil 10 minutes daily, then spit into the trash. Bonus: Less surface bacteria curbs the odds of blue moods by 37 percent, British scientists note.
Instead of swishing with mouthwash, suck on a zinc lozenge. Stony Brook University research suggests it may keep breath fresh 12 times longer. Ordinary mouth rinses kill all bacteria, nixing good microbes and bad. But zinc targets and destroys only odor-causing bacteria.
Most of us get enough cavity-blocking fluoride from toothpaste and drinking water. But after eating, plaque feeds off traces of sugar in the mouth, upping cavity risk. Luckily, chewing xylitol-sweetened gum for 10 minutes post-meal cuts cavities up to 70 percent, per a JAMA study. Xylitol blocks bacterial growth and ups saliva flow, says Angelique Freking, DDS, with Park Slope Dentistry. Bonus: Nixing excess fluoride cuts odds of hypothyroidism up to 50 percent, UK scientists say.
Floss before brushing instead of after, and research in the Journal of Periodontology suggests you’ll nix bleeding. It removes notably more bacteria, and “the less bacteria, the less gum disease,” adds Dr. Freking. Bonus: Healthy gums add up to six years to your life.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.