Something that we all know is aging is a natural part of life. It's nothing to get mad about. It's nothing to be afraid of. Matter of fact, it's a blessing to be able to say that you're getting older. That said, the key to aging gracefully is preparation, and if there's one part of us that gets overlooked a lot when it comes to this, it's our teeth. Here's the thing, though. When we're babies we get a set, then lose them. Then we gain another set and that's supposed to last us for the rest of our entire lives. Between the constant eating, sometimes grinding, the kinds of foods that we eat and not always taking care of our teeth as well (or consistently) as we should, the enamel (the main layer that protects your teeth from decay) on them can start to get thinner which can make our teeth more fragile and, quite frankly, dingy looking. That's why a lot of people can look pretty good in their 50s and 60s, then smile and instantly appear 10 years older. It's because they didn't take good care of their teeth.
There's no time like the present to learn a few ways to dodge this particular bullet. Since your teeth are going to get older over time, here are 12 proven ways to help them to stay young-looking, so that you can appear more youthful, with time, as well.
1. Stay Hydrated
Have you ever really stopped to think about what's in your saliva? It's actually a combination of water, minerals, proteins, mucus and amylase (an enzyme that helps you to properly digest your food). Saliva is great at helping to prevent oral decay because it helps to remove food particles from your mouth, wash away bacteria that can lead to cavities and neutralize acids that can eventually lead to cavities and a breakdown of tooth enamel. Something that saliva needs in order to produce itself on a regular basis is water. That's why, when it comes to taking care of your teeth long-term, it's important that you drink at least 6-8 glasses of water a day. Every single day.
2. Brush with Baking Soda. Rinse with Hydrogen Peroxide.
If you don't want to go the professional whitening route, a great natural whitening alternative is to brush your teeth with a combo of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Baking soda (also known as sodium bicarbonate) is effective because it contains tiny crystals that create a texture that's able to basically "exfoliate" your teeth, so that you can safely and effectively remove plaque from them. Hydrogen peroxide is cool because it serves as a natural bleaching agent that can help to whiten your teeth while killing bad bacteria that may be lurking around in your mouth too. I've been going with this combo since I was a child and I can definitely tell a difference, every time I use it. Just make sure to rinse your mouth really well when you're done. Both things are safe. Still, they can be pretty potent too. (If you want to learn about some other natural whitening remedies, check out "10 All-Natural Ways To Strengthen Your Teeth & Whiten Your Smile").
3. Go Easy on the Brushing
There can be too much of a good thing, even when it comes to brushing your teeth. In other words, if you ever wondered if you could brush them too hard or too often, the answer is yes. What's a trip about this particular point is even that can result in tender gums and worn out enamel. Yes, you need to brush (and floss) after every meal. Just make sure that you go with a soft-bristled brush, that you stroke at a 45-degree angle to your gums and that you do it for no more than 2-2 ½ minutes. Oh, make sure that you replace your toothbrush every three months as well. Going above and beyond this could result in tooth sensitivity. You don't want that.
4. Reduce Your Acidic Intake
This one kinda sucks because I'm willing to bet that some of your favorite foods and drinks are acidic. The reason why you should reduce the amount of them that you consume is because they've got the ability to erode your tooth enamel over time which makes it easier for the pigment of foods that stain your teeth and provide that less-than-appealing yellowish look. Acidic stuff can also cause your teeth to become pretty sensitive too. If you're not exactly sure which foods and drinks fit this bill, the list includes orange juice, soda, fish, processed foods, lemonade, pineapple juice, starchy foods, grape juice, apple juice and corned beef.
So, what foods are able to make your mouth more alkaline? Good question. Some of those include zucchini, spinach, kale, pumpkin, white cabbage, arugula and artichokes. Eat more of those and less of the acidic stuff and your mouth will be much healthier.
5. Consume Calcium and Vitamin D-Rich Foods Instead
Although your teeth aren't technically bones (teeth are made up of dentin, enamel, cementum and pulp), they do need some of the same nutrients that bones do in order to remain nice and strong. One that tops the list is calcium because it's able to harden your teeth's enamel. This is why it's so important to eat foods that are rich in calcium like cheese, dark leafy greens, yogurt, canned salmon, whey protein, milk (or milk alternatives) and chia seeds.
Another nutrient that's important is Vitamin D. That's because it helps your body to process and absorb calcium. Without calcium, your teeth can start to become pretty brittle which is problematic on all kinds of levels. Foods that are loaded with Vitamin D include fortified cereals, eggs, canned tuna, shiitake mushrooms and orange juice.
6. Eat Cheese at the End of Each Meal
If cheese is something that you love to eat, you're gonna be thrilled with this tip.
Remember how I mentioned a list of foods that are acidic? Well, something that you might not know about cheese is that it's naturally alkali. This means that, when you eat it, cheese can help to neutralize the acids that you may have just consumed from other foods. As a bonus, cheese also contains a good amount of calcium.
As far as the kinds of cheeses that are best, some dental experts are all about ones like Monterey jack, cheddar, Brie and Camembert due to all of the nutrients that are in them.
7. Do Some Oil Pulling
The brief history on oil pulling is it's an Ayurvedic practice that actually originated in India. The purpose of it is to use oils to literally purify your teeth and gums. While a lot of Indians prefer to go with sunflower or sesame oil for pulling, the people I personally know who oil pull typically use coconut oil since it has so many properties (such as lauric acid which reduces inflammation and Vitamin E which helps to heal tissues) in it. Anyway, all you've gotta do is put around a teaspoon of the oil of your choosing into your mouth and swish it around for about 10-15 minutes. Then spit the oil out and brush your teeth like usual. If you do this 2-3 times a week, you should notice that your teeth will feel cleaner, your teeth will appear whitener and your breath will even smell fresher.
As a special note, it can be hard to keep all of that oil and spit in your mouth when you're just sitting around and doing nothing. That's why it's usually best to oil pull while you're in the shower or super preoccupied with something that keeps you busy yet doesn't require you to talk.
8. Take a Multivitamin
One of the reasons why your teeth can start to weaken as you age is you may not be receiving all of the nutrients that they need on a regular basis. In fact, it's estimated that a whopping 92 percent of Americans have some sort of vitamin deficiency (what in the world?!). Since your teeth need calcium (again, it helps to harden your teeth's enamel); Vitamin D (it aids in boosting bone mineral density); potassium (it helps to keep your blood from becoming too acidic); phosphorus (it helps to build healthy teeth); Vitamin K (it improves bone strength); Vitamin C (it fights gingivitis), and Vitamin A (it helps to promote oral healing), you can never go wrong with 1) eating foods that have these nutrients in them and 2) taking a multivitamin on a daily basis. As far as multivitamins go, it's an easy way to make sure that you compensate for any vitamins or minerals that you might've missed due to your diet.
9. Drink Some Tea
Yeah, before you get all giddy in your soul, when I say "tea", I don't mean some good ole' southern sweet tea. What I'm referring to is green tea. Aside from the fact that green tea contains bioactive compounds that are able to improve your brain function while helping to keep you from getting type 2 diabetes and also antioxidants that can help to boost your immunity and reduce the risk of you getting certain cancers, the catechins (a specific type of antioxidant) in this kind of tea are also able to fight gum disease, tooth decay and bad breath. One of the best ways to take care of green tea's oral benefits by making your own mouthwash. A cool recipe is located here.
10. Get a Night Guard
If you've heard of the word "bruxism" before yet you're not exactly sure what it means, it's a medical term for people who grind their teeth or clench their jaws (which is around 10-15 percent of the population).
Several things can cause this including stress, internalized anger, insomnia, heavy caffeine and/or alcohol consumption and ADHD. The reason why this is an issue when it comes to the topic of aging teeth is because teeth grinding can damage the enamel of your teeth—and the weaker your enamel gets, the much more vulnerable to damage your teeth can become. How? Well, chewing your teeth can put between 20-40 pounds of pressure on them. Grinding? A whopping 250 pounds! Geeze.
A solution is to invest in a night guard (or bite splint). It's very similar to the trays that your dentist may use to whiten your teeth. You put them on at night and it helps to both shield and cushion your teeth so that you're not putting so much pressure on them while you sleep. Since night guards can also help to prevent headaches and neck pain, it definitely can't hurt to talk to your dentist about getting one either to fix any grinding issues that you have now or to use as a preventative measure.
11. Keep Metal Out of Your Mouth
I've had a root canal before. My dentist was cool. Still, it was no walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination. Anyway, if you end up needing some sort of treatment for a cavity that you might have, make sure that you avoid getting metal amalgam fillings or crowns. Those can definitely cause your mouth to look 20-plus years older than it should. Instead, ask your dentist about fillings that are the same color as your natural teeth and crowns that are ceramic. These options tend to look so much better. Younger too.
12. See Your Dentist Annually
Unfortunately, only half of Americans go to see their dentist every six months (which is actually how much we're supposed to do it). Around 15 percent go annually and over 20 percent said they haven't gone in the past few years. That's not good because your dentist is able to see signs of wear and tear, damage and even aging that you cannot. Plus, they can provide tips on how to keep your teeth in great shape for many years to come. I can't think of too many things that I dislike more than going to the dentist. Still, it's something that's crucial if you want your teeth to look great and, well, age gracefully. Make your next appointment, ASAP, OK? Excellent.
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