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The Daily Star

Smiles Ahead

By Dominique Ayling
The Daily Star (14 March 2004)

Forget designer clothes and styled hair – the first thing people notice about you is your smile. Dominique Ayling looks at how to get the most from your pearly whites…

Thanks to the Oscars, a perfect whitetoothed grin is the hottest style statement around. Hollywood stars including Halle Berry, Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts have all had work done on their teeth to achieve the perfect smile when they’re posing on the red carpet.

But you don’t have to be famous to make the most of your gnashers – there are plenty of steps you can take to keep your own mouth in tip-top condition.

Smiling doesn’t just make you look better – it perks you up and lifts your mood too.

In fact, research by the American Dental Association shows that people who are too stressed to smile have a 43% higher risk of developing gum disease.

Gum disease – or gingivitis – is caused by plaque and it’s the most common disease in the world, affecting 19 out of every 20 people in their lifetime. It’s a painless condition which often goes undetected – but it could make your teeth drop out.

Recent studies also suggest there may be a link between gum disease and more serious conditions, such as heart and lung disease.

Make sure you visit your dentist regularly and brush with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day. Quitting smoking will also help your oral health improve.

To get the perfect smile, read Take5’s healthy mouth round-up.

Bad breath

Colgate estimates that around 25% of people in the UK suffer from bad breath – halitosis – on a regular basis, while the majority of adults occasionally experience stale breath, especially first thing in the morning.

A major reason for this is not brushing your teeth properly. Most people spend just 30-40 seconds wielding their toothbrush but dentists recommend brushing for two to three minutes, making sure you completely clean all tooth surfaces.

If you don’t do this, bacteria collects on your teeth and at the back of the mouth, feeding off mucus and food particles and creating smelly sulphur compounds that result in bad breath.

Certain foods make your breath worse too, especially onions and cabbage which contain high amounts of sulphur compounds.

When digested, these are absorbed into the blood stream and carried into the lungs before being exhaled when we breathe, causing a pong.

A dry mouth makes things worse, because saliva acts as a natural mouthwash – and cupping our hands over our mouth and nose to check out our breath doesn’t work either. We all become accustomed to our own odours, so for a true assessment visit your dentist, who will use a Halimeter to measure the amount of smelly breath-causing volatile sulphur compounds (VSCs) in your mouth.

Decay and gum disease

Plaque bacteria use the sugars in our diet to produce an acid which attacks our teeth. Once it’s inside the tooth structure, we can’t fight the bacteria with brushing and flossing.

If decay is spotted before bacteria has entered the tooth, you may not need a filling – but when teeth become infected (known as having a cavity) the infection must be removed and the resulting hole filled.

There are three types of fillings available – white, silver and root fillings.

White fillings are mostly used on front teeth but are increasingly being used on back teeth.

They wear away much quicker than silver or amalgam fillings, which have been around for 150 years.

Root fillings are done when the inside core of the tooth – the pulp – becomes infected.

One of the first signs of gum disease is bleeding gums – and the only way to sort it out is to brush and floss properly.

Yellow teeth

Stained teeth are a major no-no when it comes to flashing a super sexy grin at the man of your dreams.

Smoking, coffee, tea, red wine, curries and orange juice are all major culprits when it comes to discoloured teeth.

Yellowing teeth are also a sign of plaque, so pay more attention to brushing and avoid sugary food and drinks.

There are plenty of teeth whitening products on the market, although many dentists say whitening toothpastes don’t make a noticeable difference. It’s best to visit a dental hygienist for advice.

Celebs with dodgy teeth usually opt for surgical whitening, which starts from £500 and can last up to three years. The method leaves teeth feeling sensitive and you must avoid all coloured foods for up to a week afterwards.