We all know some habits we engage in can hurt our teeth, but there are a few that might surprise you. The main purpose of your mouth and teeth includes eating, drinking, speaking, digestion and making expressions, like frowning and smiling. We prefer to see you smiling, so here’s a little reminder to encourage you to drop those bad habits once and for all, and learn what other habits could be harming your teeth.

Eating Sugary Foods

Sugar is long-recognized as the worst villain in the battle for maintaining healthy mouths. Obvious sources like cookies and candy are easy “foods” to avoid getting a tooth filling. But, consuming sugar from any source creates bacteria when it is digested, which can cause cavities, tooth loss and gum disease. If you can’t resist sugary treats, eat sweets right after meals as your mouth secretes a larger volume of saliva with a full meal. Doing so will better clear away sugar that tends to stick to teeth.

Now, here’s one that may surprise you – fruit. Fruit is full of fabulous antioxidants that protect you from free radical damage and can prevent infections, dental diseases, and other problems. But it has a high sugar and acid content. We aren’t advising against eating fruits, but be sure to rinse with water after consuming.

The “mini-meals” approach to dieting or snacking throughout the day may benefit your waistline, but can take a toll on your teeth. As people tend not to brush after eating snacks, round the clock grazing craze actually increases the amount of acid that is produced, leaving your enamel more at risk.

Drinking Certain Beverages

Soda is routinely identified as a culprit in tooth decay. Less obvious sources of sugar are sports drinks, fruit juices, coffees and teas from your favorite coffee shop, and alcoholic beverages. They are all high in sugar and acid, and “no-nos” for healthy teeth. If you can’t ditch sweetened beverages entirely, rinse with tap water afterwards, as well as after drinking coffee, tea or alcoholic beverages. You might consider trying safe sugar-free alternatives, as well.

Alcoholic beverages are acidic and can cause dry mouth, as it is a diuretic and reduces saliva flow. An additional pitfall is that overconsumption leads to an accumulation of plaque on gums that can contribute to loss of teeth. If you must imbibe, drink water in-between drinks to stay hydrated and rinse with water to remove acid afterwards. Lastly, coffee, tea and red wine may have beneficial antioxidants but can cause stubborn stains. Thankfully, Opalescence teeth whitening can remedy that!

If you truly want to prevent having to get a dental filling, or worse, a root canal, stick with water. Dental professionals agree that drinking plenty of water is healthy for keeping your mouth clean and hydrated. However, not all water is equally healthy for your teeth. Bottled spring water, for example, lacks fluoride, also known as nature’s cavity fighter. This mineral is added to tap water, as it is proven to strengthen teeth and prevent decay by up to 25%!  It helps the enamel be resistant to acids found in juices, tea and coffees, and safeguards teeth against bacteria. Think twice before adding lemon to your water. While it is alkalizing, detoxifying, and aids the digestion, here again the acid can cause dental erosion. While carbonated water may give you the fizz you crave, it too, is acidic, so drink in moderation.

Chewing Anything That’s Not Food

Biting on nails, pens, ice or whatever else finds its way into your mouth places undue pressure on your jaw, and can cause wear and tear. This flattens the biting edges of your teeth, and may lead to a chipped tooth or two, which can alter your bite and cause jaw issues and pain. Chewing on foreign objects can also cause dentine hypersensitivity. Chewing for prolonged time periods puts the jaw in a protruded position which, over time, can lead to TMJ and TMD. These temporomandibular disorders reflect overall joint dysfunction can be quite painful and cause a host of other problems.

If you want to avoid getting a cracked, broken tooth, or causing a filling to come loose, leave the ice in the glass and the cap on the pen. To helps resist temptation, some people find using eco-friendly straws, sugar-free gum and bitter nail polish to be effective deterrents. If these stopgaps work, great! If not, try identifying what triggers the chewing habits. When all else fails, occupying your hands with knitting or other distractions, and practicing stress management techniques are suggested.

Using Teeth As a Gadget

Your teeth are not a tool to open envelopes, packages, or bottles. Save them from a break or dental emergency by keeping scissors, bottle openers and other tools handy and within reach! Also, your teeth are not meant to carry things when you don’t have an extra hand. Nothing is so urgent that it can’t wait for you to set it down. While it seems expedient to just grab something with your teeth, that emergency dental visit to get a tooth cap or dental crown says otherwise.

Clenching and Grinding

Constant clenching and grinding can trigger TMJ or TMD if not addressed. Symptoms include pain and tenderness in the face and jaw, clicking and popping of the jaw, and cracked or chipped teeth. Some people experience pain when they chew, difficulty opening their mouths fully, and chronic headaches. A nightguard can be a good solution to help prevent the wear and tear of this constant pressure on the jaw joint. Here again, stress reduction techniques can be helpful.

Overeager Brushing

With brushing, harder and sooner is not better. To protect teeth and gums against damage and irritation, brush gently up and down for two minutes, with a soft bristled brush bearing the ADA Seal of Acceptance. If you tend to be heavy-handed, invest in a Sonicare and let it do the “heavy-lifting” to get the deep cleaning you crave without harsh scrubbing.

When to brush is important. Twice a day is a must, but wait a bit after finishing your morning cup of coffee or orange juice, as the acids in both can temporarily soften your enamel and leave it vulnerable to damage. You can add dairy to the mix to raise your mouth’s pH, rinse with water, and give it 30 minutes before grabbing your toothbrush.

Smoking and Chewing Tobacco

We understand the difficulty of trying to quit smoking, but tobacco is a proven source of tooth decay, tooth loss, periodontal disease, gum disease, and bone loss in teeth and jaws, not to mention cancer. While we can correct tobacco stains with teeth whitening and dental veneers, and advise on tips to freshen your breath, we strongly encourage our patients who use tobacco to avail themselves of smoking-cessation solutions to avoid these serious teeth diseases.

Engaging in Sports Without Protection

We are big proponents of active lifestyles as exercise is a must to stay healthy and live a long life. However, contact sports are a dental emergency waiting to happen. Wearing a custom mouthguard cushions your teeth against impact, and can mean the difference between keeping your own teeth for a lifetime or having veneer teeth or dental implants.

New Look Dental is here to support you in keeping your smile healthy! We are happy to answer any questions you may have about other habits that concern your oral health.