Image courtesy of Men's Health

Murky memory? Inspect your mouth: In a new study in the European Journal of Oral Sciences, researchers found that people with fewer natural teeth performed worse on mental exercises, regardless of their age.

Scientists can't explain the bizarre link, but Men's Health dentistry advisor Mark S. Wolff, D.D.S., Ph.D., has one theory: "People who have more teeth are probably more health-conscious and take better care of themselves, as well as their teeth."

No matter the reasoning, it's wise to keep your chompers healthy. Here's how.

Be gentle

Brushing too hard can be abrasive and damaging to your teeth. If you have the tendency to be heavy-handed with your toothbrush, try an electric model. "It's difficult to apply too much force with an electric brush," Dr. Wolff says. (In the time it took to update your status, you could have done one of these 10-Second Health Checkups.)

Redefine flossing

Hate the feeling of weaving a thread between your teeth? Skip the string variety and opt for small brushes or soft toothpicks from the oral care aisle, Dr. Wolff suggests. Both methods are just as effective in preventing gum disease, which could lead to tooth loss.

Rinse, then brush

Wait at least 30 minutes after a meal to brush your teeth. Acid from food is strongest right after you finish a meal, so brushing right away does more harm than good, Dr. Wolff says. Instead, rinse your mouth with water after every meal to neutralize some of the acid first.

Chew it over

Chewing gum stimulates saliva, which neutralizes acid. Choose a brand that contains xylitol, a sugar-free sweetener that has been proven to have an effect on bacteria that causes tooth decay, says Dr. Wolff.

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