Brush up on which cities have residents with the best smiles and oral health.By
How Healthy is Your Smile?
Do you smirk when someone takes your picture, or smile big and show off those pearly whites? If you do the latter, you probably have strong, bright, healthy teeth. Vanity aside, good oral health is also a sign of good overall health. "If you've got gum disease, you've lost your teeth, you see your gums aren't healthy or you have receding gums, those are all ways of telling you that your body doesn't have a good barrier to protect itself from the outside world," says Keith Roach, MD, chief medical officer for Sharecare and co-creator of the RealAge® Test. "Chemicals, bacteria and inflammation in your mouth can damage your blood vessels, and that predisposes you to developing heart disease." But good oral care (brushing and flossing daily and getting regular dental checkups) can make your RealAge 0.6 years younger if you're a man and 0.5 years younger if you're a woman. That's why we factored a healthy mouth into our RealAge Youngest & Oldest Cities in America Report.
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What Makes a Healthy Mouth?
We considered two major factors for a healthy mouth: the number of teeth you have and if you have dry mouth. "If you have nice, healthy teeth, your risk for heart disease is relatively low," says Roach. "If you've lost more than a few teeth, your risk for heart disease is sky high." That's because gaps left by missing teeth allow bacteria in to create inflammation around the mouth, which causes endovascular disease. Diabetes, gum disease, smoking, a high body mass index and even late-night snacking are all factors that can cost you your teeth.
A dry mouth -- which can be caused by medical illness, smoking and some medications, such as antihistamines, decongestants and antidepressants -- is also detrimental to oral health. "You need to have saliva in order for your periodontal membrane and gums to stay healthy and make a good barrier to protect against bacteria," says Roach. Severe dry mouth can cause as many health problems as losing your teeth.
1. Austin, TX
Residents of the Live Music Capital of the World have a lot to smile about: They earned the top spot for cities with the healthiest mouths. And believe it or not, all the tasty, Texas barbecue gets some of the credit. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), protein-rich foods -- including meat, fish and poultry -- are the best sources of phosphorous. Both protein and phosphorous help protect and rebuild tooth enamel.
2. Milwaukee, WI
Say cheese! A few factors help earn Milwaukee the city with the second-youngest smiles. Brew City is number one for the lowest C-reactive protein rates, a marker of low inflammation levels. Wisconsinites have another thing that may also contribute to their good oral health: The state is the largest cheese producer in the U.S. According to a recent study, cheese may help protect teeth against cavities by stimulating production of cleansing saliva. Plus, the calcium in cheese helps harden your teeth.
3. Grand Rapids, MI
The dentists in Grand Rapids seem to be doing their job well. Despite being one of the 20 oldest cities on our youngest & oldest cities in America list overall, residents in this Michigan town have some of the youngest smiles. What are they doing right? They're in the top 10 for diet diversity. "Eating a healthy diet can improve your oral health in several ways," says William DeVizio, DMD. "Getting vitamins and minerals helps your body's immune system fight infections, including potentially serious infections like those that can cause gum disease and tooth loss."
4. Sacramento, CA
Sacramento is one of a handful of California cities in the top 10 for the youngest smiles. "West Coasters are a lot more in tune with their body image," says Roach. "So they're probably more willing to spend money to go get their regular dental care and take care of dental problems as soon as they occur so that they have their nice, beautiful smiles."
5. San Francisco, CA
San Francisco is ready for its close-up! The Golden Gate City takes the number five spot on our youngest smiles list -- and it's also the youngest city in America. Residents here can thank healthy eating habits, high incomes and not smoking (they're number one for that) for such great oral health. "Smoking by itself is damaging to your blood vessels," says Roach. "Plus the toxic chemicals from cigarettes affect the lining of the mouth, making it hard to fight off bacteria and causing inflammation."
6. Minneapolis, MN
Residents of this Midwestern metropolis are in the top 10 among cities for eating fruits, vegetables and magnesium-rich whole grains, which are good for tooth enamel and for maintaining healthy gums.
7. San Diego, CA
There's more to San Diego than surfing and sunshine. In addition to good cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and low rates of diabetes, San Diego is also number two in fruit and vegetable consumption. According to the ADA, fruits and veggies stimulate saliva production to wash harmful acids and food particles away from teeth and neutralize acid, protecting teeth from decay.
8. Denver, CO
Denver ranks highly in healthy habits like diet diversity, low cholesterol and low smoking rates -- all good for their smiles. But something this city has that many others don't is sunshine more than 300 days of the year. That helps residents claim the number four spot for best vitamin D levels, which contributes to good oral health. "Vitamin D has profound effects on your bones," says Roach. "Unusually low levels of vitamin D can cause tooth loss."
9. Washington, DC
The nation's capitol also has some seriously young smiles. They can attribute teeth as bright as the White House to the highest income in America and some of the highest rates of sleep, employment and health insurance. One study in Japan found that getting less than six hours of sleep a night and smoking were the two most significant lifestyle factors that led to poor oral health.
10. Seattle, WA
Coffee stains don't stop Seattle residents from having young smiles. In fact, they might have Starbucks and Seattle's Best to thank. An American Cancer Society study found that people who drank more than four cups of caffeinated coffee a day halved their risk of dying from oral cancer.
Find Out the Top 10 Cities with the Oldest Smiles
Learn more from the experts at Sharecare: