You sweat, snip and style to keep your body looking its best, but when it comes to your mouth, you might be making sacrifices that threaten your overall health and beauty.

“Previously, there weren’t as many options to make your smile look better,” says Dr. Charles Botbol, the namesake behind Toronto’s Dr. Charles Botbol & Associates Cosmetic and Family Dentistry.

But technical advancements in whitening and porcelain dental substitutes, added to oral exposure on television shows like Extreme Makeover, he says, have caused people to want to protect their pearly whites.

“People are understanding that if they take good care of their teeth and gums and help prevent gum disease, which is the number one reason adults lose teeth, they’re going to feel better and be healthier.”

Prevention can be as simple as examining personal habits that cause oral damage. Drinking coffee, tea or red wine, smoking cigarettes and chewing on items like ice or pencils are popular routines Botbol says contribute to dental damage.

But when it comes to that morning caffeine kick, or Shiraz on a Saturday night, sometimes our appetites for indulgence outweigh our conscience for care.

That’s why Botbol recommends using a pre-brush rinse to help to whiten and maintain brightness of teeth, brushing with a soft-tooth brush and fluoridated paste twice daily for three minutes, flossing at least once a day and using an antiseptic rinse to purge germs.

And don’t forget those lips. While the importance of oral health is undeniable, keeping the area surrounding the mouth healthy with an SPF protectant is a tool Botbol says will enhance the appearance of healthy teeth.

“Like a piece of art, if you have a gorgeous picture painted by Picasso and the frame is beat up, it takes away from that picture. If your teeth are beautiful but your lips are chapped and you’re not moisturizing them and protecting them from the sun, your lips are the frame for that picture.”

While Botbol stresses that such home remedies are essential to oral health and beauty, sometimes a dentist’s structural treatment is necessary to fix more severely damaged teeth.

He disagrees with popular notions about visiting a dentist yearly, suggesting visits every three to six months, as he says reorganization of gum disease-causing germs occurs roughly 90 days following treatment.

Botbol additionally urges taking full-mouth x-rays every three to five years, as recommended by the Royal College of Dental Surgeons.

“It’s just like cancer. It doesn’t hurt until the later stages. The earlier you catch these things, it’s easier and more conservative when you treat them at that point.”

Lips are an important factor when considering oral health. Keep the mouth area moisturized and protected from the sun, advise dentists. For UVA/UVB protection, try Burt’s Bees’ Sun Protecting Lip Balm, SPF 8, left. Available at specialty, heath and drug stores, $4.49.

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