If there’s one part of the body that’s neglected more than the rest, it’s your mouth. Ask yourself: how often do you commit to the following? Twice-daily brushing. Flossing. Annual dental appointments. (Trick question—you’re supposed to visit the dentist twice annually.)
Remember: There’s more to clean teeth than just a sparkling smile. The teeth and gums play a huge role in your health and wellbeing, from aiding in digestion to making speech clear. So if you’re looking to protect one of your body’s greatest assets, steer clear of these habits that would surely send your dentist over the edge. And for more ways to uncover your best smile, check out these 20 Secrets for Whiter Teeth After 40.
Sucking 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. So, the next time you’re browsing the aisle for cough drops, be sure to pick the one that contains the lowest amount of sugar to protect your teeth, say the folks at East Portland Dentistry. And for more sore-throat remedies that don’t involve sucking on a cough drop, check out these 25 Amazingly Effective Sore Throat Remedies You Didn’t Know Existed.
Yes, that’s right—even sipping on a glass of red wine (or any kind of wine, for that matter) can erode your enamel and lead to discoloration, says Montefiore Dental. However, if you find it hard to resist that glass of wine at the end of a long day, just swish water around in your mouth after consuming any wine to limit your chances of staining.
Getting tongue, lip, or cheek piercings
While they might have been trendy in your younger days, tongue, lip, and cheek piercings are extremely harmful to your teeth and gums, says the Canadian Dental Association.
The piercings can cause major erosion to surrounding gums and damage to the teeth within the immediate vicinity of the piercing. Further, this damage can lead to tooth fracture and even loss of taste buds. Perhaps a nose piercing is the way to go. And for more amazing oral health advice, This Is the Safest Way to Store Your Toothbrush.
Playing sports without a mouthguard
It’s incredibly common to see professional football, hockey, and boxing athletes wear mouth guards while playing—and, according to Pediatric Dental Specialists of Central Oklahoma, there’s a reason for this protection: “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.” So, basically, if you decide to forego the mouth guard, you risk the potential for cracked teeth and harm done to your gums.
Brushing 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 is the chance that it can cause major damage to your teeth, say the experts at Colgate.
Eating acidic foods weakens your enamel, and brushing weakened enamel can cause it to erode. To avoid this tooth and enamel decay, wait at least 30 minutes after your meal to brush your teeth for your enamel to settle.
Using your teeth as a tool
Again, it should come as no surprise to most that using your teeth to rip open packages is extremely harmful to your chompers. According to Montefiore Dental, the only service your teeth should be engaging in is to chew your food thoroughly to aid in digestion. For the tougher items, stick to scissors.
Grinding your teeth
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 don’t even realize that they’re grinding their teeth at night—so it’s important to assess your symptoms when the morning comes.
If you suspect that you’re doing this, investing in a mouth guard is the best way to ensure that you’re not doing any damage to your teeth, like altering the alignment of your teeth or rubbing away the enamel. And for more of the strangest things you do in your sleep, check out these 30 Weirdest Things You Do in Your Sleep.
Only brushing once a day
According to Montefiore Dental, the best way to ensure that your teeth remain healthy is to brush and floss at least twice a day, every day. You will also benefit from a thorough brushing after consuming foods and beverages high in acidic properties that can damage your teeth, like citrus products.
Missing your regular dental check-ups
Most of us are guilty of skipping regular dental appointments. It makes sense: they’re uncomfortable (30 minutes-plus dedicated to thoroughly exploring one of the sensitive areas of the body) and often time-consuming (5 minutes in waiting room time is four times that in real-world time).
But, according to Montefiore Dental, it’s extremely important to see your dentist at least twice a year for regular cleanings and check-ups. Plus, they can keep an eye on any shifting teeth (or god forbid, moving wisdom teeth).
Chewing ice cubes
According to Dr. Matthew Messina at the American Dental Association, 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.
Bleaching your teeth too often
According to the Canadian Dental Association, bleaching your teeth at home or in the dentist’s chair is a perfectly safe way to whiten your teeth. 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. In the meantime, avoid consuming items like coffee and cigarettes that can stain your teeth. If you want white teeth, This Simple Trick Will Naturally Make Your Teeth Whiter.
Aside from leading to a whole other host of health issues, like eating disorders and obesity and potentially diabetes, frequent binge eating can greatly affect your oral health. This is especially the case when binging on foods high in sugar, as large amounts of junk food can lead to cavities and enamel erosion, according to Babylon Dental Care.
Biting your nails
To save your jaw and teeth, avoid engaging in this nervous habit, says Dr. Ruchi Sahota of the American Dental Association. The constant pressure on your teeth and protruded jaw can have lasting and harmful impacts on your mouth, as nail biting can lead to chipped teeth and jaw dysfunction. Look to other stress relievers like rubber bands to keep your hands busy and away from your mouth.
Brushing 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.
Soda is yet another sweet indulgence that often isn’t as infrequent as it should to be. The sugary beverage is loaded with phosphoric and citric acids, which, according to Montefiore Dental, can lead to major enamel erosion the more you sip on the sweet drink.
Instead of reaching for a can of soda, grab a glass of milk—it provides the calcium and phosphorus needed to remineralize teeth, or build up your enamel.
Eating sweet treats
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. As with all sweet treats, save them for special occasions only—especially as you age.
Smokers, this shouldn’t really come as a surprise—smoking cigarettes is incredibly harmful to your oral health. In fact, according to Montefiore Dental, all tobacco products stain your teeth and lead to eventual gum disease. Our suggestion: curb the nasty habit, and save your teeth in the meantime.
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