In our pursuit for more beautiful skin, we cannot help but look at the other obvious source of beauty in our face: Our teeth. My business partner happens to be a dentist, and her expertise in oral health has sparked my own passion for this area. Just like I am a big proponent of improving your skin’s health rather than just covering up flaws, I am a big fan of addressing overall oral health rather than just the look or shade of your teeth. It all goes together. Interestingly, dental care has become a major driver in the beauty business in the last couple of years. More and more dental practices offer increasingly sophisticated cosmetic dental treatments that go way beyond the standard cleaning and filling treatments, while choices at drugstores and even department stores have exploded. As with skincare, the key to beautiful, healthy teeth lies in sensible, daily habits. What are the simple, daily rituals we can perform to maintain good oral health and what product attributes should we look for?
Basic care: Brush & Floss & Mouthwash
That we should brush our teeth at least twice a day is no news. Tooth brushes should not be too bulky and should have medium to soft bristles. But what about toothpaste? Are all toothpaste created equal? And what about the new and more expensive pastes which are now sold in department stores and high-end apothecaries?
The basic “active” ingredient found in almost all toothpaste is fluoride, which re-mineralizes your teeth and therefore helps prevent cavity formation. Our teeth are constantly de-mineralizing and re-mineralizing throughout the day depending on what we eat and how often we brush. Sugars and acids for example de-mineralize the teeth and unfortunately promote tooth decay. Unless you are crazy about unique and funky flavors (plum, green tea, etc.), good old fluoride toothpaste from the drugstore works just as well as the more expensive department store or boutique brands. Two drugstore brands stand apart from the pack by containing additional active ingredients to help prevent cavities and gingivitis: Colgate’s “Total” toothpastes and Crest’s new “Pro-Health” toothpaste. Total contains Triclosan, a broad-spectrum antibacterial agent that in “Total” has been shown to stay effective for up to 12 hours after brushing. Crest’s “Pro-Health” contains Polyfluoride which also is an antibacterial agent. Tip: After brushing your teeth, make sure you apply lip balm or Vaseline to your lips afterwards, as toothpaste can be particularly drying to your delicate lips. The most beautiful teeth will look sad if framed by flaky, dry lips.
As a person who flosses once a day every day, I thought of myself as a role model, until I met a gum-specialist at a recent party, who reprimanded me because I “only” floss once a day, rather than 3 times a day (after each meal). Apparently, it’s that important. Regular flossing helps remove hard-to-reach plaque by the gums which can lead to gingivitis and periodontal inflammation (inflammation of the gums and the underlying bone), which in turn, as research suggests, increases chances of heart disease and stroke.
Why use mouthwash? What does it do and what should it do? Mouthwash can perform two important functions: It can kill bacterial in hard-to reach places and/ or it can re-mineralize your teeth. “Listerine” touts its bacteria-killing benefits, but in my opinion is way too harsh. Its high alcohol content can irritate and dry out the inside of your mouth, which brings with it a whole other set of problems. Another dentist friend of mine recommended “Act”, an alcohol-free mouthwash with a high fluoride content that re-mineralizes teeth and helps prevent tooth decay. When I asked her about the anti-bacterial mouthwashes, she advised me using a long-lasting anti-bacterial toothpaste like “Total” in combination with a fluoride-based mouthwash would be an optimal treatment combination. (For more information, visit www.actfluoride.com, available at most drugstores around the country)
Olive and darker skin tones automatically make teeth look whiter than fair, ivory skin tones. There are a plethora of at-home treatments available to brighten the shade of your teeth with hydrogen-peroxide-containing products, including trays, toothpaste, mouthwash, wands and even dental floss. Again, there are an overwhelming number of brands and products available. Trays provide the most intense treatment and provide visible results, but as my business partner warned me, the challenge is to not only remove stains from teeth but keeping new ones from forming. We attack our teeth constantly with staining foods and drinks. In fact, anything that can stain a white T-shirt will stain your teeth over the long-term: Wine, dark fruit juices, chocolate, coffee, tea – “ they all will compromise the shade of your teeth unless you brush shortly after each consumption. Not exactly very practical. You could rinse with a whitening mouthwash throughout the day, but a far more effective and easy solution is “Go Smile”s genius little whitening ampoules. As my dentist friend explains, the genius lies in the combined action of rubbing off plaque and residue while delivering whitening hydrogen peroxide to the teeth, all without rinsing. This combined action does make stain removal more effective, all in quick (2 minutes!), non-messy way. (For more information, visit www.gosmile.com, available at www.sephora.com)
The right lip stick shade
As the finishing touch to a beautiful smile, applying the right kind of shade will help brighten up your smile. In general, blue undertones will make your teeth appear whiter, while orange undertones will emphasize the yellow in your teeth.
Yoshiko hosts the skincare column here every month. Her skin care line www.juaraskincare.com