When you’re happy, you want to smile, and studies have revealed that smiling has many benefits beyond just letting others know that you are excited. Smiling can help build trust when you meet new people, reduce stress in difficult situations, make you feel better when you are down, and even help you make more money and live longer.

But what if you’re not very confident about your smile because you’re worried about oral hygiene or crooked teeth? For many people that is enough to make them not want to smile, and it can make life a lot more difficult. A 2012 study published in the Deseret News highlighted some of the social stigma that comes with crooked or missing teeth. Studies show that bad teeth prevent people from getting jobs, promotions, and higher pay, and may impact overall health as well.

Here are five ways that you can improve your smile so you will want to show off those pearly whites whenever you feel happy.

See a Dentist Regularly

Dental care is one of the most critical components for healthy mouth and teeth. Most people should see a dentist twice a year (every six months) for a cleaning and checkup. If you have pain, swelling, infection, or other problems in your mouth, don’t go to the emergency room—go see a dentist immediately. Often they will be able to treat the problem and prevent future complications with immediate care, rather than waiting until a small problem becomes more expensive and more detrimental to your health.

Unfortunately many people in the U.S. don’t go and see a dentist regularly because they don’t have dental insurance and can’t afford the high cost to pay for it out of pocket. If you don’t have a dentist and haven’t been to a dental office because you have difficulty affording it, The Dental Clinic at Roseman University offers affordable dental care with rates significantly discounted from what you would pay at a traditional dental office so you can get high quality care at a great price.

Brush and Floss Your Teeth

One of the best ways to maintain a healthy smile is by regularly brushing and flossing teeth. Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, and floss at least once a day to keep teeth and gums healthy, remove plaque, and eliminate bad breath.

Avoid Sugary Food and Drinks

no-sugar-3Sugar breaks down quickly and feeds the harmful bacteria in your mouth, so the more sugar you consume, the more bad bacteria grow. This leads to tooth decay, sensitivity, gum disease, and other problems in your mouth. Your teeth can also turn sugar into a glue-like substance that attracts bacteria to your teeth (in the form of plaque), making it harder to wash away naturally with your saliva. If you do eat sugar, follow up by brushing your teeth or chewing sugar-free gum, and make sure to drink plenty of water to boost saliva that will wash the sugar off your teeth.

Consider Cosmetic Procedures

If you have crooked, dirty, or decaying teeth, consider the benefits of a cosmetic procedure, such as a crown, bridge, implant, or even teeth whitening. Studies show that these small adjustments can make a big difference in the first impression you create with your smile. These procedures are also good for more than just cosmetic reasons—having healthy, strong teeth allows you to breathe, swallow, chew and speak properly, contributing to better nutrition and making you more comfortable at job interviews or in social situations.

Don’t Smoke or Chew Tobacco

Quitting smoking and chewing tobacco is good for many reasons, one of which is to improve the health of your teeth and gums. Tobacco and cigarettes cause tooth decay, receding gums, and gum disease, and are the main contributing factors to mouth and throat cancers. They can also make it difficult to heal following dental or orthodontic work, negating the money and time you spend trying to fix your smile. The best thing you can do to improve your oral health and your smile is to quit smoking or using tobacco.

The ability to smile is an important part of your life—to be happy, you need to be able to smile and laugh as much as possible. Don’t let poor oral health keep you from enjoying all the benefits that smiling can offer.