#8 may surprise you!
Save your smile. Taking care of your pearly whites isn’t rocket science. Yet it’s all too easy to develop habits that could cause toothache in the long run.
Taking care of your teeth isn’t difficult, but it’s easy to slip into habits that could cause heartache —er, toothache— in the long run. We got the latest on giving your teeth the T.L.C. they need from Melbourne pro Dr Rita Trakhtman . She will clue you in on where you could be going wrong.
1. Using social media as your dentist
The web is full of weird and (seemingly) wonderful DIY dental tips that can do much more harm than help. I’ve heard of people who go on Google and find ways to whiten their teeth by swishing with straight peroxide, for example. When it comes to tooth whitening and dental care it’s best to use approved products that have been tested.
2. Using your teeth as tools
Do you bite your fingernails, or use your teeth to rip open packages? Using your teeth in lieu of a nail filer or a pair of scissors may seem quick and convenient but it could actually land you in the dentist’s chair. Teeth are meant for eating, speaking properly, and smiling. Anything else can be unhealthy and this most certainly includes using them as tools.
“You shouldn’t use your teeth to tear open bags of chips,” says Dr. Rita Trakhtman. “You can end up chipping a front tooth. If you’re using a back tooth, you could break a filling or crown.”
3. Chewing on Pencils
We often unconsciously chew on pencils or bite objects when we are concentrating. These pressures on teeth can cause teeth to chip or fracture. Chewing sugarless gum can be one way to prevent damage and it also stimulates saliva production and helps to cleanse our teeth in the process.
4. Being Okay With Hiding Your Smile
Too many people smile without showing their teeth, ashamed of how they look.
Being able to smile has tremendously positive psychological impact which can affect everything from your ability to get promoted to feeling attractive.
5. Avoiding x-rays
X-rays are important because not all conditions can be identified with a visual exam. For example, there might be cavities between the teeth, or there might be a cyst or other pathology in the jaw. If you’re concerned about radiation or the cost of x-rays, talk to your dentist about ways to minimize the number of x-rays you get.
6. Hanging on to that tongue, lip or cheek piercing
I’m all for self-expression and individuality, but if it takes the form of a tongue barbell or lip/ cheek piercing, it can come at a hefty price. Some of the damages I’ve seen in the clinic from stud or ring piercings include fractured teeth from biting on their lip ring, sensitive teeth from the ring exfoliating against their enamel, unsightly permanent gum recession from the piercing rubbing against soft tissue and causing tender areas of the mouth. Mouth jewelry also encourages more bacteria buildup in the mouth creating an overall unhealthy situation. Had your piercing for ages with no trouble, you’re thinking? Just wait – studies have shown that your risk of dental problems from tongue and lip piercings gets worse the longer you have them.
“Be extra careful to avoid biting on your piercing because the damage it can cause can result in losing a tooth or needing costly dental work to try to save it,” says Dr Rita Trakhtman. If you’re still hung up on your piercing, opt for plastic as it’s less damaging than metal.
7. Drinking lemon water
Like to start your day with a glass of oh-so-trendy lemon water? The acidity in lemon juice erodes your tooth enamel so at the very least wait about 30 minutes before brushing. On top of that, use a straw to avoid the lemon juice contacting your teeth. The same applies for apple cider vinegar.
8. Brushing immediately after consuming acidic foods
If you’re consuming food and drink that is acidic (such as coffee, tea, alcohol, salad dressing), it can soften your teeth. “If you immediately brush your teeth, the abrasion of the toothbrush on the softened enamel can cause some damage.” explains Dr Trakhtman. To avoid this risk, Dr Trakhtman recommends waiting about half an hour before brushing. This time frame gives your saliva enough time to neutralise the acids. Can’t wait 30 minutes? Chew sugarless gum. It will stimulate saliva production, and help freshen your breath until you can brush your teeth.
9. Brushing immediately after vomiting
Since vomit is acidic, the same rules apply after consuming acidic foods and drinks – wait half an hour before brushing. Gross but true! Also if you’ve thrown up, be sure to rinse with tap water immediately afterward.
10. Ditching your retainer
If you once had braces whether as a teen or as an adult, it’s smart to keep wearing your retainer for as long as your orthodontist recommends, which may mean several nights a week, forever. Eventually your smile will go from being perfect to shifted. The end? You’ll be unhappy.
11. Chewing ice cubes
Chewing ice is a seemingly harmless, unconscious habit but if your mouth is home to several fillings, an icy snack can be risky. “If a tooth has a filling, its strength is compromised to a degree. If you chomp down on ice, you could damage the tooth,” says Trakhtman.
12. Not wearing a night guard
Wearing a night guard can help to relax your jaw while you sleep and minimise the effects of grinding. Most people grind their teeth to some degree while they sleep, and the scariest part is, it’s difficult to know if you’re doing it since you’re asleep when it happens, unless a partner doesn’t tip you off!
Grinding results in jaw pain and a flattening of the teeth until they’re all one length. Wearing away your teeth like this can also make them sensitive.
You spend one third of your life sleeping — why not protect your teeth during this time so they still look lovely as you get older?
13. Playing sports without a mouthguard
It’s common to see professional sportsmen in soccer, football, and boxing wearing mouthguards, but mouth protection is also important for recreational athletes of all ages. In any sport where you could potentially get hit in the face, wearing a mouthguard may be difference between whether or not you get to keep your front teeth. Your teeth are vulnerable to being knocked out or damaged from high impact sports. Going out on the playing field without something to protect your teeth is as important as wearing a helmet and other protective body gear.
Different styles of mouthguards are available, ranging from the cheapest option – ‘boil-and-bite’ mouthguards – to customized guards created by your dentist. This version is pricier, but offers an exact fit, much better comfort and 10x better protection and safety. Not sure if you need one? Put your money where your mouth is – the cost of fixing damaged teeth will be considerably higher than the price of a mouthguard.
You already know smoking is bad for your lungs and heart. In case you need another reason to quit smoking: Besides the bad breath and stained teeth, smoking is one of the most significant risk factors associated with the development of severe and painful gum disease and the gum recession, loose teeth and tooth loss that come with it. To increase your chances of success in kicking this unhealthy habit, seek help from your doctor.
15. Reaching for a toothpick
While those old-school sticks can certainly come in handy when food gets stuck between your teeth at a restaurant on date night, the truth is that wooden toothpicks are poor substitutes for dental floss: They can splinter and break, and using them too aggressively can cause damage to sensitive gum tissue.
16. Not seeing your dentist every 6 months
Hate sitting in the dentist’s chair? The very best trick for short-circuiting anxiety about going to the dentist is – surprise – going to the dentist. Most patients who don’t like to come in feel that way because when they do, they need a lot of work. If you’re in every six months for your hygiene appointments and have regular checkups, you’re less likely to run into problems.
17. Going overboard with whitening products
Going crazy and over-used (abusing) with whitening teeth can lead to weakened enamel and teeth sensitivity. The key is safety. The bottom line is that you should consult your dentist – that is, the professional who knows your teeth and is best equipped to suggest an in-office treatment or over-the-counter product that’s right for you-and use the whitener they recommend in moderation.
18. Not drinking enough water
If you are dehydrated your mouth becomes dry which makes it more acidic which will dissolve tooth enamel. Dry mouth means you have less saliva. Saliva is needed to protect your teeth from dental disease so make sure you keep well hydrated. Swishing with and drinking water is also an important way to rinse accumulated sugars and acids from your teeth.
19. Reaching for the wrong mouth rinse
Mouthwashes don’t really play such an important nowadays in oral care but there are still some people who prefer to use it. There are as many ways to rinse your mouth, as there are types of bacteria to have in your mouth. Most mouthwashes will merely mask bad breath and leave you with a pleasant taste in your mouth. Therapeutic rinses with ingredients like antimicrobial agents on the other hand, can actually help reduce gingivitis, cavities and plaque. Just make sure to pick one without alcohol/ethanol, as this ingredient is quite drying, irritating and has been linked to oral cancer.
20. Using a brush that’s too hard
Effective as they might seem, harder bristles can be quite abrasive to your enamel, and you might as well be using sandpaper! I only recommend soft toothbrushes. Research indicates that your gums will suffer from tough brushes as well: A 2011 study published in the Journal of Periodontology found that hard-bristled toothbrushes were more likely to cause gingivitis and tissue damage than soft-bristled toothbrushes.
21. Drinking soft drink – even the diet stuff
For the record, all acidic drinks – regular soft drinks, diet ones, even sports drinks -can cause tooth erosion. High sugar and acid content make for a bad combination for your teeth. Frequent soda drinking will essentially “bathe” your teeth in sugar and can lead to dental decay. Additionally, increased acid exposure works to erode tooth enamel and can lead to teeth sensitivity. If you must drink soda, lessen the frequency and opt for the healthier thirst-quencher, water. Also, minimize the erosion of enamel by rinsing with water after your teeth have been exposed to acidic beverages. Try sipping acidic drinks through a straw to avoid contact with the teeth. Finally, wait at least 30 minutes before brushing with a soft toothbrush after acid exposure to avoid further breakdown and wear of your enamel.
22. Sports Drinks
Although great after a tough workout, sports drinks are no better than soft drinks in that they contain high amounts of sugar and acids that can do harm to your teeth. To avoid the risk of decay and dental enamel erosion, opt for refreshing, calorie-and-fat-free water.
23. Fruit Juice
Fruit juices can be healthy due to their vitamin and mineral content, but this benefit can be diminished by the presence of high amounts of sugar. There is a tendency to underestimate the amount of sugar in naturally sweet fruit juice. For example, apple juice contains approximately as much sugar as the same volume of most soft drinks.
References: Best Health, Australian Dental Association, American Dental Association, Sports Australia, MedicineNet.