Celebrity dentist Karent Sierra. (Photo/Getty Images)

A smile’s link to good health: 5 tips from celebrity dentist Dr. Karent Sierra

Dentist to the stars Karent Sierra knows what it takes to look camera-ready – after all, she counts Pitbull among the many celebrity clients that head regularly to her dental practice in Miami.  It turns out,  though, that looking like your fave stars is easier than you might think – expensive wardrobe notwithstanding – says Dr. Sierra, and it begins with the simplest of habits.

“Having a nice, bright smile is not only a sign of youth, but it’s a sign of health as well,” says Dr. Sierra, who has owned her own successful practice in Miami for the last eight years. “And that’s what I try to instill in people. Having a beautiful smile isn’t important just for beauty’s sake – it’s key to overall health.”

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In fact, explains Dr. Sierra, there’s a distinct link between oral health and diabetes. “People don’t realize that the risk of a diabetes diagnosis is 66 percent higher among Hispanics as opposed to non-Hispanics – and that people with diabetes are two times more prone to getting gum disease.”

According to the American Diabetes Association, there’s a two-way association between gum disease and diabetes. Not only is there an increased risk factor for those with diabetes to get gum disease, but gum disease can also cause the levels of blood sugar to rise, making diabetes harder to manage. But there are ways for Latinos to prevent severe dental problems associated with diabetes – and they’re all much easier than you might think, says Dr. Sierra.

1. Visit the dentist at least twice a year. Visit the dentist at least twice a year— don’t wait until you have a toothache or suspect a cavity. “Unfortunately, in the Latino community we tend to procrastinate visits to medical professionals until it’s nearly too late,” says Dr. Sierra, who recently teamed up with Colgate Total as a spokeswoman for the brand. And don’t forget to take young children on regular visits too, advises the former “Real Housewives of Miami” cast member. “It’s important to instill good oral hygiene habits early.”

2. Brush your teeth at least twice daily. The key to maintaining a healthy smile is as easy as brushing your teeth thoroughly twice a day with a regular toothbrush, no “fancy electric toothbrush required,” notes Dr. Sierra. Replace tooth brushes regularly and opt for brushes with soft bristles, as hard bristles can quickly wear down the tooth’s natural enamel. Remember to brush at a 45 degree angle and “help younger children brush until they’re of age to do responsibly by themselves, usually at the age of 7 or 8,” says Dr. Sierra.

3. Brush your tongue. One of the biggest mistakes people make is that they neglect to brush their tongue, says Dr. Sierra. “Your mouth is full of bacteria and if you’re brushing your tongue when you brush your teeth, you’ve basically only done half the job,” explains Dr. Sierra. And buildup of that bacteria can often result in both bad breath and/or infections, making “brushing your tongue an important part of your daily routine.”

4. Be wary of whitening products.  It’s important to do your research when it comes to trying out various whitening products – and more so when it comes to trying out home remedies, advises Dr. Sierra. “People think that brushing with baking soda or hydrogen peroxide can whiten teeth quickly, but it can often burn the tongue,” says Dr. Sierra. She advises that patients ask their dentist about the best way to whiten and if all else fails, opt for Dr. Sierra’s favorite, budget-friendly whitening product: strawberries. That’s right – strawberries contain malic acid, a natural astringent which can help whiten teeth. “Rub your teeth with cut up strawberry every day for two weeks,” advises Dr. Sierra, and smile a little wider knowing you opted for a healthy – and inexpensive – whitening product.

5.  Floss regularly. A large percentage of Americans still haven’t made flossing a regular part of their routine, but flossing is integral to preventing gum disease and tooth decay. It’s the only way to remove food debris and plaque between the teeth, says Dr. Sierra. And don’t even think about coming up with any excuses to opt out of flossing, says Dr. Sierra. She recommends placing a container of floss in the shower, adding “if you’re staring at it in the shower, you’re more likely to use it then when it’s hidden away in a drawer.”

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