We all want brighter teeth and healthier gums, especially when flashing our pearly whites at holiday parties. Plus, a pretty smile is more than just aesthetically pleasing. Taking care of your teeth can also translate into better overall health. The reason? It improves the balance of the oral microbiome, a microbial community that aids in digestion, metabolism, and immunity, according to Kami Hoss, DDS, co-founder and CEO of The Super Dentists. If you’re ready to get started, check out these three tips for naturally improving your dental health by nixing bleeding gums, funky breath, and reducing your risk of cavities.
For bleeding gums, eat fruits rich in vitamin C.
University of Washington scientists say a vitamin C deficiency may be to blame for poor gum health. The fix: Enjoy C-rich kiwis or strawberries daily, which spurs new gum tissue growth and keeps existing gums supple. Bonus: Folks with healthy gums have lower levels of energy-sapping inflammation, making them more likely to feel calm and happy, suggests a study published in BMJ Open.
For funky breath, breathe through your nose.
Bacteria thrive in a dry environment, like the kind created when you breathe through your mouth. Indeed, research in the journal Clinics suggests that breathing with your mouth open increases bad breath risk by up to 90 percent, hurting your dental health. So, try breathing through your nose (like your pup does!), which deprives bacteria of the oxygen they need. Bonus: Curbing oral microbes also blocks inflammation that stiffens arteries, which, as scientific article in the journal Cardiovascular Research suggests, reduces hypertension risk.
For cavities, try pre-brushing.
Prone to cavities? Spend 30 seconds “pre-brushing” with a dry toothbrush. Un-lubricated bristles are better able to remove biofilm along the gums, cutting cavity-causing plaque buildup by 57 percent, according to an analysis published in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene. Follow with regular brushing. Bonus: Blocking plaque from traveling to the brain cuts dementia risk, per a study in Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy.
For cracked teeth, wear a mouth guard.
If you wake up with a sore jaw or have cracked a tooth, you likely grind or clench your teeth at night. To cushion the blow and protect your dental health, wear a mouth guard to bed. It cloaks teeth in a soft shield while allowing jaw muscles to rest. One you can mold to your teeth: Visismile (Buy from Amazon, $19.99). Bonus: Preventing clenching cuts the risk of morning headaches, according to a study in the Clinical Journal of Pain.
For stains, add milk to your morning coffee.
Adding milk to your coffee or tea is a way of protecting your teeth against dark, staining colors and acidity. Indeed, a study published in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene found that milk significantly reduces the ability of tea to stain teeth. The researchers concluded that milk’s casein was the main protectant, and they suggested that it was as effective as peroxide whitening strips. (However, the study was performed on human teeth that were left to sit in a tea and milk solution. Holding milk in our mouths all day to try and whiten our teeth isn’t realistic. So, it’s not likely that drinking milky tea or coffee will whiten your teeth as much as peroxide strips.)
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.