5 Things Your Dentist Doesn't Want You to Do
Your teeth may be tough, but they're not indestructible. Habits that may seem harmless - like chewing on ice - can damage your smile and lead to extensive dental work. Keep your dentist happy by following this what-not-to-do list.
Put the Wrong Things in Your Mouth
Does it seem as if you can never find a pair of scissors when you really need them? Although your teeth make handy tools, using them to open packages or bottles isn't recommended. Biting into these objects can crack your teeth, increasing the risk of a tooth fracture. Unless the crack forms in the front of a tooth, you may not even be aware that there's a problem until your tooth breaks one day.
Biting your nails is also problematic. The habit can erode your tooth enamel and cause chips and cracks in teeth. If nail biting becomes a regular occurrence, it may even cause symptoms of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), such as jaw pain and headaches.
Are you an ice chewer? If you continue to gnaw on ice cubes or chips, your tooth might fracture or a filling may crack. Both ice and teeth are made of crystals. When two crystalline items exert pressure on each other, one of them will eventually break apart. If you're lucky, the ice will break and not your teeth.
Skimp on Oral Care Supplies
Some people use toothbrushes until they're well past their prime, even if they have a stash of free brushes from dental checkups. Toothbrush bristles flatten and become flayed if you use a brush longer than the three to four month period recommended by the American Dental Association. Those errant bristles can cut your sensitive gum tissue or even cause receding gums. If you find it difficult to remember when it's time to replace your brush, set a reminder on your phone or laptop, or tape a note to the inside of the medicine cabinet.
String, credit cards, envelopes and other objects aren't good substitutes for dental floss. In fact, those items can damage your gums and increase your risk of developing an infection. Luckily, floss is fairly inexpensive and readily available in stores.
Eat Sugary Foods
Sugar is a key component in the tooth decay process. Tooth-damaging acids form when sugars in food combine with the bacteria in plaque. The acids attack your tooth enamel, causing cavities. Although candy, cookies, cakes and other sugary foods often trigger the process, carbohydrate-rich foods are also a problem. An enzyme in your saliva breaks down carbohydrates into sugars when you eat bread, pasta, pretzels, potato chips, crackers and other foods. Avoiding or limiting sugars and carbohydrates can help you lower your cavity risk.
Grind or Clench Your Teeth
You may not be aware that you grind or clench your teeth while you sleep, but you've probably noticed a few tell-tale signs. Frequent grinding or clenching can cause:
- Cracks and chips in teeth and fillings or damage to crowns, bridges, and veneers
- Enamel erosion
- Shortening of teeth
- Receding gums
- Loose teeth or dental implants
- Sensitivity if enamel erosion reveals underlying dentin
- Bacterial infections in pulp due to cracks in teeth
- TMJ symptoms (earache, headache, jaw pain and stiffness, clicking sounds, difficulty chewing, speaking opening and closing your mouth.)
Wearing a custom-made nightguard while you sleep can prevent damage to your teeth and restorations and help you avoid TMJ.
Social media is full of ways to improve your smile. Although these methods may seem cheap and easy, following the advice of Twitter or Instagram influencers can result in expensive dental bills. Protect your oral health by avoiding these fads:
- Do-It-Yourself-Orthodontic Treatment. Using rubber bands, paper clips in an attempt to straighten teeth can increase your risk of gum infections and tooth loss.
- Natural Whitening Options. Social media influencers often recommend whitening your teeth with lemon juice, apple cider vinegar or activated charcoal products. Lemon juice and apple cider are very acidic and may erode your tooth enamel and increase your risk of tooth decay. Abrasive activated charcoal can also wear away your enamel, exposing the yellower dentin layer underneath. Once you've lost tooth enamel, your smile will be duller and you may experience sensitivity.
Regular dental checkups are an important factor in good oral health. If it's been a while since you've had a checkup, or you're concerned about a dental problem, give us a call.
American Dental Association: 6 Habits That Harm Your Teeth
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research: Tooth Decay
American Dental Association: New survey highlights ‘unusual’ flossing habits, 10/20/17
Natural Teeth Whitening: Fact Vs. Fiction