25 Things You’re Doing That Would Horrify Your Dentist
Your bad oral hygiene is affecting more than your teeth.
Let’s be honest: How many days of the week do you actually brush twice and floss? Chances are, the answer is “not many.” A 2019 survey from the American Dental Association found that more than 30 percent of Americans aren’t brushing enough and 20 percent never floss. And what about those biannual dental appointments? Yeah, that’s what we thought.
In addition to those three tenets of oral hygiene, there are other bad habits that affect your oral health in more ways than you might have realized. So if you’re looking to protect your mouth, steer clear of these actions that would surely send your dentist over the edge.
You suck on cough drops.
Though cough drops or throat lozenges are a go-to defense against worsening cold and allergy symptoms, they are often packed with sugar that can erode your enamel, according to the experts at East Portland Dentistry in Portland, Oregon. So, the next time you’re browsing the aisle for cough drops, be sure to choose a low-sugar option to protect your teeth.
You drink a ton of wine.
It doesn’t even have to be red wine. Sipping on any kind of wine can erode your enamel and lead to discoloration, according to Montefiore Dental in the Bronx, New York. However, if you find it hard to resist that glass of pinot noir at the end of a long day, just swish water around in your mouth after consuming it to limit your chances of further damage.
You have a tongue, lip, or cheek piercing.
It turns out, tongue, lip, and cheek piercings aren’t the best for your mouth, according to the Canadian Dental Association. That’s because piercings in the area can chip or fracture your teeth or irritate your gums. They can also damage tissue and impact your sense of taste.
You play sports without a mouth guard.
You’ll notice professional football players, hockey players, and boxers wear mouth guards—and, according to Pediatric Dental Specialists of Central Oklahoma, there’s good reason for that. “Playing sports without a mouth guard puts teeth at risk of taking a hard blow without any cushioning, which can cause them to crack or break altogether,” the specialists note. So if you decide to forego the mouth guard, you risk the potential for tooth loss and gum damage.
You brush your teeth immediately after eating acidic foods.
When you brush immediately after consuming foods and beverages high in acidic properties, like orange juice and other citrus products, there’s a chance that it can harm your teeth, according to the experts at Colgate. Eating acidic foods weakens your enamel and brushing weakened enamel can cause it to erode. To avoid this potential decay, wait at least 30 minutes for your enamel to settle before brushing your teeth.
You don’t treat your acid reflux.
When you suffer from acid reflux, your gastric acids travel up your esophagus to your mouth. Normally, your saliva is equipped to battle acids present in the foods that you consume, but when it comes to these gastric acids, your saliva can often not handle the heavy influx, resulting in major erosion of your enamel, according to the American Dental Association. To combat this, the experts suggest chewing on sugar-free gum to encourage more saliva production in your mouth.
You use your teeth as a tool.
It should come as no surprise that using your teeth to rip open packages or hold things while you use your hands is extremely harmful to your chompers. According to Montefiore Dental, the only service your teeth should be providing is chewing your food thoroughly to aid in digestion.
You grind your teeth at night.
If you wake up with a headache, jaw ache, or just feel as though you haven’t received the adequate amount of sleep, you might be grinding your teeth at night. In fact, according to Montefiore Dental, most people who do this don’t even realize it—so it’s important to assess your symptoms and see a professional. It may be worth investing in a mouth guard to ensure that you’re not doing any serious damage to your teeth, like altering their alignment or rubbing away the enamel.
You bite your nails.
To save your jaw and teeth, avoid engaging in this nervous habit, says Dr. Ruchi Sahota, a dentist in Fremont, California. The constant pressure on your teeth and protruded jaw can have lasting and harmful effects on your mouth, like chipped teeth and jaw dysfunction. Look to other stress relievers, like rubber bands, to keep your hands busy and away from your mouth.
You chew on ice cubes.
According to Dr. Matthew Messina, a dentist and dental professor at Ohio State University, regularly chewing on ice cubes can potentially lead to tooth fracture. “Tooth enamel is a crystal. Ice is a crystal. When you push two crystals against each other, one will break,” says Messina. This is especially the case when you have fillings, since they can be easily jarred by hard substances like ice cubes.
You use toothpicks irresponsibly.
According to the dentists at Eagle Rock Dental Care in Idaho Falls, Idaho, using a wooden toothpick could put your enamel, gums, and overall dental health at risk. “If you’re using a toothpick to clean the food out of your teeth and you use it for too long, you could very well be permanently damaging and removing your teeth enamel (which does not come back),” they explain. “You could also puncture your gums or chip a tooth. Often times you are just jamming the food particles farther into a canal than removing them anyway.”
You bleach your teeth too often.
Though dentists and health officials have yet to figure out how much whitening is too much whitening, bleaching your teeth despite feeling pain or irritation is never safe. When in doubt, always listen to what your body is trying to tell you.
If your teeth hurt or are sensitive during and after the whitening process, it’s probably time to give it a rest for at least six months’ time.
You drink soda.
This sugary beverage is loaded with phosphoric and citric acids, which, according to Montefiore Dental, can lead to major enamel erosion. Instead of reaching for a can of soda, grab a glass of milk—it provides the calcium and phosphorus needed to remineralize teeth and build up your enamel.
Or you drink coffee.
Coffee may be an everyday staple for millions of people, but the beverage contains harmful acids that eventually erode the enamel on your teeth.
Fortunately for those of us who can’t survive without our morning cup of Joe, there are a few ways to mitigate this. “For one, you can drink your coffee with a meal, or a healthy snack that is high in fiber,” according to the experts at Newman Springs Dental Care in Lincroft, New Jersey. “The physical act of chewing produces saliva, which neutralizes food acids to protect your teeth. Also, you can follow your coffee with a large glass of water. The water will dilute the acid and wash it from your teeth so that it doesn’t eat away at your precious enamel.”
You put lemon in your water.
Though a squeeze of lemon might do wonders for your water, the fruit’s acidity can harm the protective layer of enamel on your teeth, according to the dentists at Watts Family Dental in Overland Park, Kansas. “A good rule of thumb when preparing a 32-ounce bottle of lemon water is to add only the equivalent of about half a lemon. That should be plenty of lemon juice for a single day,” the dentists advise.
You take gummy vitamins.
We get it: Gummy vitamins taste better than traditional ones. However, according to Daily Dental Care, gummy vitamins sometimes contain as much as seven times the amount of sugar as non-gummy varieties. “Although the sugar content in these gummy vitamins is quite small, many fail to consider the adverse effects associated with the sticky consistency of these ‘nutritional’ supplements,” they write. “They can stick to teeth for hours on hours giving the sugar more than enough time to start forming cavities.”
You’re always snacking.
Your constant snacking is not only bad for your waistline, but it can also have a negative impact on your pearly whites, according to Dr. Caitlin Batchelor of Caitlin Batchelor Dentistry in Harrisonburg, Virginia. “When you snack frequently, your teeth are constantly bathed in acid,” writes Batchelor. “And since you’re not likely to brush after every snack, your teeth will be at extra risk for cavities and decay.”
You consume a lot of soft bread and potatoes.
Starchy foods have a tendency to stick to the teeth longer than other types of foods. “In addition to upsetting the pH balance of your mouth, certain types of starchy foods, like crackers and pretzels, for example, are more likely to leave sticky bits of food between your teeth,” Batchelor notes.
You eat lots of sweets.
The worst culprits for tooth decay are hard candies and soft, chewy candies, since both can sit on your enamel for a long time and cause acid to build up, essentially doing away with the protective barrier on your teeth.
“When you drink and eat … sugary foods, you’re not only feeding yourself—you’re also feeding the germs (bacteria) that can cause tooth decay and gum disease in your mouth,” according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. “When sugars … in your mouth come in contact with plaque, acids form. These acids can attack your teeth for 20 minutes or longer after you finish eating. Repeated attacks can break down the hard enamel on the surface of teeth. This leads to tooth decay.”
You only brush once a day.
According to Montefiore Dental, the best way to ensure that your teeth remain healthy is to brush at least twice a day, every day.
You brush your teeth too vigorously.
When you’re brushing your teeth, try to make it more of a “massage” and less of a “scrub,” says Messina. Scrubbing your teeth too vigorously can irritate your gums and damage your teeth—so be sure to gently massage your teeth for two minutes, twice a day.
For further protection, use a soft toothbrush with plenty of bristles over a harder brush with minimal bristles, as those can aggravate your gums as well.
You don’t floss.
Failing to floss on a regular basis can negatively affect your overall health—not just your dental health. “Oral bacteria can enter the bloodstream through inflamed tissues and settle on heart valves, creating bacterial plaques that lead to heart disease and heart attacks, strokes, and more,” says Dr. Greg Grobmyer, DDS, a dentist in Chattanooga, Tennessee with Authority Dental.
You skip your regular dental check-ups.
Yes, dental appointments are uncomfortable and time-consuming: An hour dedicated to thoroughly exploring one of the most sensitive areas of the body is no one’s idea of fun. But, according to Montefiore Dental, it’s extremely important to see your dentist at least twice a year for regular cleanings and check-ups.
You use illicit drugs.
We don’t have to tell you that illicit drugs like cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, and methamphetamines aren’t doing your body or brain any good. But did you know they can affect your teeth, gums, and jaw, too? That’s according to the Victoria State Government’s Better Health Channel, which notes that certain drugs can cause users to clench their jaw and grind their teeth. Not to mention, the dry mouth that often comes as a side effect of drug use can cause erosion and other damage.
According to Montefiore Dental, all tobacco products stain your teeth and lead to eventual gum disease. Of course, that’s only the beginning of the negative effects of smoking. It’s time to put this bad habit behind you, for your oral health and overall health, too. And for more medical advice straight from the experts, check out these 25 Things You’re Doing That Would Horrify Your Physician.
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