Twice a day, I ask my boys “Did you brush your teeth?” That’s immediately followed by “Don’t forget to use toothpaste.” Taking care of your teeth goes beyond brushing and flossing. Diet and exercise play major roles in your dental health. Here are 10 tips to a “pearly white” smile:

1. Try not to grit your teeth when you exercise. Sometimes when you’re training intensely or lifting heavy you might clench your jaw. Be careful, I know someone who cracked a molar in the middle of doing bench press.
2. Eat a well-balanced diet. The vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in vegetables, fruits, dairy and whole grains protect teeth and gums.
3. Avoid drinking dark liquids. I’m probably going to get a lot of comments about this one. But beverages such as colas, dark juices and black tea will stain your teeth. So be sure to brush immediately afterwards.
4. Eat crispy foods like apples, celery and lettuce. They are natural cleaners and also stimulate your gums.
5. Get a new toothbrush. It always amazes me how much better a new toothbrush feels on my teeth and gums. Over the years I’ve tried different brushes and finally settled on one with a smaller head. So be sure to find a comfortable brush and replace it at least every 3 months.
6. Chew on some mints leaves. Most people only see mint used as a garnish on a dessert, but did you know that peppermint and spearmint oils fight many types of harmful bacteria in your mouth? When I help Heather in the garden I’ll pick a mint leaf and chew it. My mouth immediately feels cleaner.
7. Floss everyday. This doesn’t need an explanation, does it?
8. Keep your hands our of your mouth. Okay so maybe this is aimed at kids. But sometimes grownups do it too. I have a son who has lost two baby teeth and it seems like he’s always wiggling a loose tooth with his fingers. Dirty hands in your mouth? Ick.
9. Scrape your tongue. After you brush and floss your teeth, brush your tongue. There is bacteria on your tongue too. You can even use a tongue scraper.
10. Drink plenty of water. Water protects your teeth from decay and lubricates the tongue and tissues. Water also aids chewing, swallowing and digesting food. So drink up!