Your adult teeth are meant to last you a lifetime. But if you don’t practice good oral hygiene, or you pick up some bad habits, you can have problems ranging anywhere from tooth decay to gum disease to having teeth fall out.
At Union Square Dental, located in the Flatiron District of Manhattan, our team of expert providers believes not only in promoting good oral hygiene, but also in educating our patients on habits they should avoid if they don’t want to ruin their teeth and gums. Here are some of the top bad habits you should avoid or correct as soon as possible.
Bad habits that can ruin your teeth
There are quite a number of things you can do that will damage your teeth and gums, but we’ll stick to some of the more common and destructive ones.
There’s something so satisfying about crunching on an ice cube when you finish your drink. The problem is, though, that the cold temperature of the cubes, as well as the pressure you need to exert to break them apart, can cause microscopic cracks in your tooth enamel. Over time, these can widen into bigger fractures, and you could eventually have the tooth snap apart, even down to the roots.
There’s also something satisfying about cracking a popcorn kernel between your teeth, but the stress problem is exactly the same as with ice. Ditto for fruit pits. The bottom line? Use your teeth for chewing on softer foods, and don’t deliberately cause them undue stress.
Many people like to swirl carbonated drinks like soda around their mouth, as the sweetness and the fizziness create a pleasurable sensation. Unfortunately, however, this is very bad for your teeth. Keeping the sugar in your mouth for an extended period allows it to eat away at the tooth structure and form cavities more readily. If you’re drinking soda, sip it through a straw to minimize exposure, and make sure the straw is not resting on your teeth. Position it toward the back of your mouth.
Using teeth as tools
Your teeth are meant to bite and chew food and aid in producing speech — they are not meant to be used for other purposes like opening a bag of chips, uncapping a bottle, straightening a bent fork, holding nails or screws, or biting off sewing thread. Yet these are all things many people do without even thinking about it.
Using teeth as tools produces undue stress, and like ice, this can lead to enamel fracture and sometimes even tooth loss. Take the extra minute and get the tool you really need to do the job. Your mouth will thank you.
Clenching and grinding (bruxism)
This habit you have less control over, especially if you clench or grind your teeth while you sleep. Left untreated, bruxism causes severe muscle pain, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems, chipping, and tooth loss on some or all opposing teeth (attrition). Fortunately, there are things you can do to alleviate the problem.
Tooth grinding can be caused by many different reasons, including stress, anxiety, an abnormal bite, or missing or crooked teeth. You can relieve stress by finding an exercise regimen to work it off, and you can ease anxiety with counseling. You can also try to cut back on any caffeine-containing products as well as alcohol.
Your dentist may recommend a mouth guard (sometimes called a nightguard), which is an appliance that sits between your teeth so they don’t touch, forcing your jaw to relax. You can find OTC mouth guards, but one-size-does-not-fit-all, and you may find it less than effective.
Using hard-bristled brushes/brushing too hard
Many people think that scrubbing your teeth and gums as hard as you can is a good thing, since it’ll remove more plaque, and that using firmer bristles will help them do it better. It’s not, though, especially if you’re older. Brushing too hard leads to enamel loss, hypersensitivity, a loss of tooth structure near the roots, and irritated or bleeding gums.
In addition, as you age, the gums pull back a bit, often exposing the tooth root. This results in increased sensitivity, since the root is covered in cementum, and it’s worn away more easily than enamel. A hard-bristled brush can irritate the gums, lead to sensitive teeth, and possibly lead to tooth loss if the root comes loose in its socket.
Always use a soft-bristled brush, and apply just enough pressure to clear off the tooth and gum surfaces without causing any pain or the bristles to splay out immediately after use.
To learn more about good dental habits, or to schedule an appointment, give Union Square Dental a call at 212-675-7877, or contact us online.