Teeth are something we often take for granted. We do our best to care for them within the constraints of the rest of our day, forget half the recommendations our dentist makes until we have to make a dental appointment, and don’t pay attention to the damage we’re doing.
Our habits have consequences. Often painful, expensive consequences.
The Right Thing the Wrong Way
- Using the wrong toothbrush – using a brush that’s too hard can cause your gums to recede, leading to abrasion damage to tooth root surfaces. These factors increase plaque buildup and lead to cavities, as well as leaving a pathway for infection.
- Brushing too forcefully or frequently – you can actually brush your teeth too often. The normal rule of thumb is to brush 2 times a day or after meals, but not immediately after meals. Brushing your teeth less than 30 minutes after a meal can erode tooth enamel that’s temporarily weakened by acidity. You can also, even with a toothbrush that isn’t too hard for your gums, apply too much pressure and start damaging your teeth and gums. Gentle brushing is generally enough to break up plaque on tooth surfaces. If you’re not sure how hard you’re supposed to be brushing, ask your dentist.
Lack of Proper Care
- Dry mouth – something we don’t often pay attention to unless it gets annoying, dry mouth can cause damage to the enamel on your teeth. Dry mouth has many potential causes from medications to disease processes to heredity and should be addressed with your dentist.
- Grinding and Clenching – also known as bruxism, grinding and clenching your teeth can cause wear, cracks and fractures, jaw pain, and other symptoms. Many people grind their teeth when stressed or at night. If you grind your teeth in your sleep, speak to your dentist to come up with solutions to protect your teeth.
- Contact sports without a mouthguard – mouthguards are an essential piece of athletic equipment that protect your teeth from blows to the face and head, cut lips or cheeks, and other damage. Reduce your risk of broken or lost teeth by getting a mouthguard and wearing it.
- Sugary foods and drinks – sugar is bacteria’s best friend, and bacteria creates and thrives in plaque, which causes cavities and gingivitis. Bacteria release acid as they digest, which damages your tooth enamel.
- Acidic foods – coffee and soda are notorious for regularly exposing your teeth to their high-acid content. Drinking them throughout the day is a sure-fire way to damage your teeth, because it doesn’t give saliva a chance to neutralize the acid.
Biting Things That Aren’t Food
- Chewing your nails – “parafunctional” biting, whether on nails, pens, or other objects as part of a nervous habit, exerts unusual bite forces on teeth, which can wear them down and cause fractures and chips.
- Using teeth as tools – using your teeth to open bags, bottles, or remove tags from clothing or any other various things we use teeth for actually damages teeth. Your mom wasn’t lying. Over time, your teeth will start to crack and chip from the unnatural force of these activities.
- Chewing ice – ice is, arguably, food. It’s also really bad for your teeth and a terrible habit to pick up. While some mass-produced ice is manufactured softer specifically because people won’t stop eating ice, you’re not going to get even that minor advantage making your own ice. Chewing ice compulsively is also a sign of iron deficiency anemia so if you can’t stop yourself, you might want to see your physician.
It’s important to properly care for your teeth to avoid not just painful conditions and high dental bills, but also because dental health affects the rest of your health. A healthy mouth makes a great difference to how healthy your body is.