Your smile can change your mood but how can your happiness shine if your worried that your teeth aren't. Enter our complete guide to oral health and dental care.

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We understand: Mugs of strong java get you through long days in your cubicle or office. Or a bottle of red wine with your besties is your Friday night treat. Feel-good drinks? Yes. But are these weekly habit friendly on the teeth? Definitely not. Coffee and red wine are just two fluids that can dull down those once-sparkling "pearly whites."

Now we already know that boosting our oral health helps keep our overall health in check—so concluded a 2015 study in which the BMC Oral Health, reported that oral health influenced our health-related quality of life. But even with a cavity-free mouth, you wish your teeth looked as good as they feel. Maybe it’s time for a mouth makeover?

But with all those dental products crowding the shelves—battery-operated pulsonic gum stimulator toothbrushes, gingivitis/plaque/tartar-fighting toothpastes, antiseptic fluoride-filled mouthwashes—picking what’s best for you can be overwhelming. Here is our guide to making over your smile.

Habits to Avoid for Whiter Teeth

Smoking, red wine, coffee and even dark-coloured sauces can stain your teeth, especially if you consume these on a regular basis and even moreso after whitening your teeth.
“After someone has done a whitening treatment with us, we tell them to avoid these foods and drinks for the first 48 hours,” says Dr. Arun Narang, BSc, DDS, a dental surgeon who is on the board of directors of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, with practises in Mississauga and Oakville. “Because we open the pores of the enamel to flush out some of the stains, those pores are still open for some time afterward.”

What's the Best Toothbrush for Whitening?

The Canadian Dental Association (CDA) puts its stamp on a number of approved products, including toothbrushes. But should you opt for a manual or an electric toothbrush to do the job?

“If your manual dexterity is compromised in any way, a power brush would certainly help,” says Dr. Euan Swan, manager of dental programs for the CDA in Ottawa.

What to Look for in a Whitening Toothpaste

Ask a number of dentists to suggest their favourite toothpastes and you’ll get an equal number of different answers. So, along with looking for the CDA seal to support any whitening and brightening claims, check the abrasive factor of your toothpaste.

“There are abrasive indexes showing how more or less abrasive a product may be,” says Dr. Narang. “The ones that are more abrasive aren’t good. You don’t want them to be too abrasive on the enamel or on white fillings or veneers.”

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Rinses and Mouthwashes for Oral Health

“Mouth rinses have an effect on the dental plaque biofilm on your teeth,” says Dr. Swan. (Biofilm is a yellowish film that builds up on your teeth.) “By disturbing that and making the surface cleaner with the rinse, the teeth will appear whiter and brighter.”

Opt for mouthwashes and rinses that are alcohol-free, though. “Rinses that contain alcohol can dry your mouth out,” notes Dr. Narang.

To Floss or Not to Floss?

Waxed, unwaxed, ribbons and more? What you use to fine-tune the cleaning in between your teeth is largely up to what type of floss you prefer. That being said, waxed floss may glide through your teeth better, while ribbons can work well for tight teeth. Flossers with picks can help reach the dark corners of your mouth that your fingers can’t.

Did you happen to hear about the debate over flossing?

A recent report from the Associated Press concluded that flossing doesn’t carry enough positive evidence that it reduces plaque, tooth decay and gum disease. Consequently, our American neighbours removed flossing requirements from federal dietary guidelines. All of this contributed to debate over the benefits of flossing, making us want to get to the bottom of it.

So what’s the answer?

Although there is a lack of clinical evidence to suggest flossing is beneficial for overall oral health, most dentists still recommend flossing because it can cause no harm and is an inexpensive practice. In fact, the American Dental Association still stands by it despite the government’s stance on flossing. Furthermore, there is enough evidence that flossing helps prevent gingivitis, the precursor to serious periodontal disease. Frankly, that’s enough reason to make us still get our floss on!

What's the Best Teeth Whitening Treatment?

Not sure you can spring for the price of an in-office whitening treatment? Ask your dentist to work with you, suggests Dr. Narang. “Try asking for custom trays and whitening product from your dentist,” he says. Getting this concentration on a custom tray might offer better custom whitening of your teeth at your leisure.

Prefer to opt for an off-the-shelf product? It’s still worth mentioning to your dentist first. “They can then tell you if there’s any entry to root decay or exposed root surfaces that might be sensitive after whitening,” says Dr. Swan.

Top Cosmetic Dental Treatments

Whitening isn’t your only option to boost the look of your pearly white. “When a patient comes in to do some rehabilitation on their smile, there are other options,” says Dr. Narang. This may include bonding, in which a resin is applied to your teeth to fix chipped teeth, spaces, paint over a discoloured portion or more. Veneers (shells that are attached to the front of teeth), orthodontics (braces to straighten teeth, fix crooked ones and more) or crowns (a cap to protect a damaged tooth) are also available. The options are endless and depend on your particular concerns, so it's best to book an appointment to talk to your dentist about your overall goals and how best to achieve them.

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Brushing Basics: How to Properly Brush Your Teeth

Brushing properly truly ensures that all of your mouth gets the full clean sweep, notes the CDA. Here are the four simple steps you should follow to ensure you're brushing correclty.

  1. Using a soft brush with rounded bristles, start by brushing at a 45-degree angle to your teeth, aiming at the area where your teeth meet your gums.
  2. Massage the teeth in a circular motion and up and down—not scrubbing back and forth, which can push your gums toward receding.
  3. Go over all sides of your teeth: The top (chewing surface), the cheek side and the tongue side. This should take you three minutes altogether.
  4. Mix things up with your brushing pattern every now and then so you won’t keep missing the same spots every time. For example, try your usual routine backwards.