There are thousands of different ways to look younger. But this time I would like you to think of your teeth. White, straight teeth reflect younger age, when crooked, discolored, worn, or missing teeth are associated with an aged look. Even the adage “long in the tooth” used to describe older persons reflects the fact that gum disease causes gums to recede and teeth to appear longer as a result. And one more thing in the list – it is a bad breath. More than 50% of the adult population has had bad breath at one point or another, but everyone has it is the morning, as bad breath mostly caused by bacteria. At the same time your mouth is more than just a pretty smile, beautiful lips and wise words. It’s also a gateway to your overall health. Keeping that gateway clean (in all senses) will keep you healthier longer – and looking younger.

Consider four simple, proven and practical steps to make you look younger:

1. Brush and floss daily

“Taking the time to brush and floss is what’s needed,” says Anthony M. Iacopino, DMD, PhD, dean of the dentistry faculty at Canada’s University of Manitoba, professor of restorative dentistry, and an American Dental Association spokesman. “Brushing, flossing, and going to the dentist is so easy to do, it’s not expensive, and everyone should be doing it.”

2. Change the toothbrush/head

Remember to replace your brush head after 3 months of use, or if the brush is damaged, or if parts become loose. Your toothbrush is loaded with germs, as “that plaque – the stuff you’re removing from your teeth – is bacteria,” says dentist Kimberly Harms, DDS, consumer advisor for the American Dental Association. “So you’re putting bacteria on your toothbrush every time you brush your teeth.” In addition, extended usage, loose parts or excessive wear could lead to brush head breakage, generation of small parts and possible choking hazard. You may read more about it here.

3. Take tooth whitening procedures

Tooth whitening – over-the-counter and in dentists’ offices – has become increasingly popular in the U.S. and is often marketed as a way to look and feel younger. Nevertheless experts say although artificial whitening can temporarily improve a smile, you still need consistent brushing, flossing, and routine dental care to have a lasting impact on how well you age.

4. See your dentist every six months

Looks aside, there’s another reason to make time for dental care. Bacterial buildup, inflammation, tooth decay, and periodontal disease happen quietly and slowly. That’s why so many people don’t know it’s happening. Inflammation can happen when bacteria and debris, such as bits of food, enter the blood vessels around the teeth. Inflammation is your body’s response to such invaders. And if it happens over and over again, you could wind up with long-term (chronic) inflammation. Chronic inflammation is linked to chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease. Only regular visits to the dentists may help you to stop or to treat your invisible decease.

AND – Change your entire lifestyle, not as a step # 5, but as an advice.

Of course, you need to do more than brush, floss, and see your dentist to stay young. Your entire lifestyle matters. “If you want to slow down your aging clock, getting enough sleep, a healthy diet, exercise, and keeping down your levels of inflammation are all key,” Iacopino says.  The fact remains that there are no shortcuts to getting and staying healthy, and oral health is no exception.