OVERVIEW: Magazine covers are overflowing with photos of celebrities flashing perfectly straight and white teeth. Cosmetic dentistry is now all the rage as readers flock to look like these superstars. But you may be shocked about what these pictures don't show.
Just because these famous folks may have the ideal teeth doesn't mean they also have the ideal support system for them. Healthy gums and bone are crucial for healthy teeth but no photographer is going to snap them. They are the unsung heroes of a healthy and beautiful smile.
Teeth don't magically hold themselves in place in our mouths; that's the job of gums and bones. Taking care of only your teeth is like only washing your car. Forgetting to change the oil and fill up with gas is a recipe for automotive disaster. And forgetting to care for gums and bones is a recipe for gum disease.
Gum disease begins where the tooth is attached to the gums. It starts out as gingivitis; mild symptoms such as minor bleeding and puffiness when brushing are its signature. If ignored, however, these symptoms can progress to the breakdown of the gums' connective tissue. This can lead to eventual bone and tooth loss. Not many photos of toothless actors or singers make their way onto a supermarket cover.
Fortunately, these problems are easily avoided with good oral hygiene. Brushing at least twice a day, flossing once and even using mouthwash are all keys to preventing gingivitis. Quitting smoking will increase the chances that these techniques are effective. Keeping in touch with your dental team on a regular basis and informing them of any problems can help in detecting early warning signs.
Good overall health care is just as important. Eating a healthy diet will keep your entire mouth functioning well. Monitoring the intake of medication can prevent mix-ups with side effects. Regular weight-bearing exercise keeps bones strong. And being aware of possible hormonal changes, especially in women, is something to keep in mind.
Don't be fooled into thinking that straight and white equals healthy and strong. It's entirely possible to wear braces or use whitening strips all the while plaque and tartar are building up along the gum line. These procedures are usually performed for cosmetic reasons and are typically not necessary to keep gums and bones healthy.
So if you want to look as attractive as the latest celebrity, more power to you. Everyone wants to have that beautiful smile. But remember, outward beauty starts on the inside and dental beauty starts on the inside of the mouth. Keeping a package of floss in your glove compartment, a toothbrush in your desk drawer and some mouthwash in your purse can make good oral hygiene a snap. Who knows, it could very well be the 'snap' of a camera.
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