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7 Steps to Healthy Teeth

From tap water to exercise, we found the secrets to keeping your smile strong

Cherish Your Chompers

A high-quality electric toothbrush can help maintain oral health. — Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

En español | Want to keep your teeth? Follow these surprising tips:

See also: Sign up for AARP's Health Newsletter

1. Break a sweat
Exercise may lower the risk of gum disease, says Samuel Low, D.D.S., former president of the American Academy of Periodontology.

2. Power up 
Use a high-quality electric toothbrush with a small head, says New York City periodontist Greg Diamond, D.D.S.: "They're optimized to remove plaque."

3. Go beyond floss 
If your gums recede (as even healthy gums can), interproximal brushes, which look like tiny pipe cleaners, may work better than floss, which can miss plaque on a root.

4. Wait to brush
It takes 30 minutes to an hour for saliva to neutralize the acids in foods. "Brushing right after eating can brush the enamel away," Diamond warns.

5. Watch your gums
Insist that your dentist examine your gums with a probe. If the gum pocket surrounding a tooth is deeper than 3 mm, you might have gum disease.

6. Get off the bottle
Many bottled waters lack fluoride. Consider adding a filter to your tap instead.

7. Wet your whistle
Teeth depend on saliva to remove microbes. If your mouth is dry, a prescription rinse can help.

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