Looking after your oral health helps your teeth, gums and overall health, but it can also help improve your smile too. We look at 10 ways to take care of your smile and the way you feel about the look of your mouth.

Your teeth, gums and smile play a role in your health and can affect how you feel about yourself. “Your lips frame your smile and your gums are a window to your overall health,” explains Dr Uchenna Okoye, clinical director of London Smiling.

Smiling can lift your mood and make you feel better. It’s a part of your personality and is often linked to feelings of confidence and self-esteem.

Not being able to smile confidently, for example through fear of displaying wonky teeth, missing teeth or bleeding gums, can have a negative impact on your emotional health and wellbeing.

According to figures from National Smile Month, 66% of adults have visible plaque on their teeth, 31% have tooth decay, 84% have at least one or more fillings and 74% have had at least one tooth extracted, which can play havoc with healthy smiles.

10 tips to maintain a healthy smile

Thankfully, there are plenty of things you can do to both look after your smile and improve it.

1. Brush your teeth
It sounds obvious, but brushing your teeth thoroughly and regularly can help improve your smile. According to National Smile Month, only brushing your teeth once a day makes you a third more likely to develop tooth decay. “Brush your teeth at least twice a day and use an electric toothbrush,” advises Dr Okoye. “Remember to replace the toothbrush head every three to four months.”

2. Get flossing
Floss your teeth daily. “Flossing is an essential quick fix tool and one of the secrets to gleaming teeth,” says Dr Okoye.

3. Use interdental brushes
As well as flossing, use interdental brushes to get between the teeth and remove plaque and tiny pieces of food.

4. Visit your dentist regularly
Don’t skip dentist check-ups, make sure you visit regularly. “It gives your dentist the best possible opportunity to monitor your oral health,” says Dr Okoye.

5. Attend hygienist appointments
Take the opportunity to have hygienist appointments too, a hygienist can offer valuable tips on how to maintain good oral care. Book a clinical appointment to expertly remove tarter and plaque and to improve gum health.

6. Consider a crown or other dental treatments
If you’re aware of an unsightly or damaged tooth that spoils your smile, then consider having a crown fitted. For a badly damaged or decayed tooth, weigh up the pros and cons of having it removed.

7. Know the signs of gum disease
“The first sign of gum disease is blood on your toothbrush or in the rinsing water when you clean your teeth. Your gums may bleed when you eat and your breath may be unpleasant,” explains Dr Okoye. Early treatment of gum disease can save your teeth and help prevent other health problems, so know the signs and see your dentist if necessary.

8. Avoid smoking
Smoking stains your teeth, so to keep them looking white, avoid smoking. According to the British Dental Association (BDA), smokers are also more likely to produce bacterial plaque which can lead to gum disease.

9. Take care of what you eat and drink
Drinking too much tea or coffee or eating strongly coloured foods can take its toll on your teeth, staining and discolouring them, say the BDA, so take care with what you consume.

10. Try whitening toothpaste
If you’re keen to make your teeth look better, try swapping your usual toothpaste for whitening toothpaste. It can help remove stains and brighten the appearance of your teeth.

Cosmetic dentistry

If you’re still concerned about what your smile looks like, then cosmetic dentistry procedures are also available.

If you’ve got crooked, misaligned teeth or large gaps between teeth, then your dentist may recommend orthodontics or having braces fitted. This helps straighten your teeth and reduces the chance of food and bacteria getting stuck between the teeth, leading to tooth decay.

Whilst braces used to be regarded as purely something teenagers have, according to the BDA many adults opt for it too. Brace technology has improved greatly over the years, with many options now being invisible.

For teeth that are discoloured, chipped or even crooked, a dental veneer made of porcelain can be applied by a dentist to your tooth to improve the appearance.

Tooth whitening or bleaching is available too, which will whiten your smile and remove the stains that whitening toothpaste can’t. “Always do bleaching under your dentist’s supervision,” advise the BDA. “Don’t be tempted to buy kits over-the-counter or on the internet.”