What You Don’t Think Can Hurt Your Teeth – Can
Every day we put our teeth to use and most of us take our teeth for granted. It’s been drilled into us from an early age, when toothbrush training occurred not long after the first baby teeth erupt, that we brush in the morning and at night, and floss often. But while we have been taught what to do, we usually have not been taught what not to do to keep our teeth strong and whole, our gums healthy, and our smile white. Alabama Family Dentistry shares a list of activities, habits and food/beverages that you may not realize can cause harm to your teeth and gums.
Habits That Can Damage the Health of Your Mouth
Grinding Teeth. Grinding and clenching teeth is often associated with stress and usually occurs while sleeping. Not only does it place tension on the teeth, jaw muscles, and the jaw joint, it usually results in pain, not to mention wearing down the tooth enamel. Besides finding ways to reduce stress, AFD recommends using a custom-made mouth guard to wear overnight.
Chomping on Ice. Although it doesn’t seem to be a harmful habit, chewing ice can produce small cracks in the enamel, which over time can extend longer and deeper and eventually cause a fracture in the tooth. If you are an ice chewer, make sure to chill your beverage, or even your glass, before serving.
Gnawing a Pencil. Do you nibble on your pen or pencil while concentrating? In addition to the possible splintering of the object in your mouth, you can also chip a tooth. Feeling fidgety? Chew sugarless gum with xylitol to stimulate saliva production and expend some nervous energy.
Using Your Teeth as a Can Opener. This often instinctive habit can be extremely damaging. Using your teeth for anything besides smiling, chewing, and speaking is highly discouraged. Humans have hands and actual tools to substitute for teeth, even if it might take a second or two longer to get the task done. Do not even think of opening a bag of chips with your teeth!
No Mouth Guard – No Play. If you or your child play organized sports, you know that protective mouth gear is required when on the field. But what about just horsing around at the neighborhood or gym basketball court, throwing passes at the park, or kicking the soccer ball around. It doesn’t matter if you are on or off the game timer – a mouthguard should always be worn when participating in a high impact sport to cushion impact to the teeth and jaw, and also prevent bitten tongues and lips.
Pierced Tongue or Lip. This is a dangerous “fashion” trend that dentists and physicians highly discourage. Not only can mouth piercings break or chip teeth, they can also cause permanent gum recession from friction against the gums. Sensitivity, tooth loss, and bacteria buildup is a steep price to pay for “beauty”.
Baby Bottles at Bedtime. Although it is common practice to give baby a bottle of milk or even juice before they drift off to sleep, the prolonged exposure to the sugars from the milk or juice, mixed with bacteria in the mouth, can lead to enamel loss and tooth decay, even before a tooth has erupted. It si recommended to either follow up a reduced serving of milk or juice with a small bottle of water. As well, alternative methods for relaxing baby – rocking, soft music, humming, etc. may substitute for the bottle. And never let a baby fall asleep with the nipple still in their mouth
Sugary and Acidic Beverages. Soft drinks, juice and sports drinks all have a high sugar and acid content, which essentially submerges your teeth in sugar despite the benefit of some vitamins and minerals in sports drinks and juices. Add bacteria and you’ve got tooth decay. In addition, many of these drinks include acids which can erode tooth enamel and contribute to tooth sensitivity. Water is always best, as well as beverages with no added sugar, or diluted juice. If you do drink an acidic or sugary beverage, use a straw, and rinse your mouth with water after drinking to decrease potential enamel erosion. But don’t actually brush your teeth for 30 minutes to protect enamel from further erosion.
Stain Inducing Beverages. Some of the beverages we enjoy the most – coffee, wine and colas – all have the potential to stain teeth due to the etching effect of high acidity on your enamel which allows penetration of the stains, the chemicals contributing to the dark rich colors, natural and added sugars, and tannins, which actually bind the stains to your teeth. In addition, dark beverages, particularly coffee, can decrease saliva production. As with other sugary and acidic beverages, rinsing with water, or chewing gum afterwards stimulates saliva production and neutralize the pH. And eating protein while drinking also helps neutralize the staining effects.
Starchy or Gummy Foods, Perpetual Snacking, and Binge Eating. Grazing throughout the day allows food debris and plaque to linger on your teeth. In addition, when the snacks are starchy or sugary, they tend to disintegrate and stick to teeth more easily, getting into deep grooves and crevices between teeth. What else sticks to teeth? Gummy candy, chewing gum, and cough drops, same effect as starchy foods. Binge eating entails consumption of a large amount of sugary and starchy foods, often followed by purging which adds acid to the mix. These all foster perfect conditions for bacterial plaque to form. The best advice is to stay away from starchy foods, floss and brush soon after eating to moderate plaque levels, and if you must snack or over-indulge, try healthy and cleansing-type foods such as apples, carrots, and celery. As for gum and cough drops, opt for sugar free versions. Seek professional assistance for food related disorders.
Smoking. We all have been bombarded with the evils of smoking, yet people still continue to smoke. In addition to heart and lung disease, use of tobacco products can dry out the mouth and increase plaque buildup. Contracting gum disease is more likely for smokers. And smoking has been linked to oral cancer. In the case of tobacco users, quitting smoking or chewing tobacco is probably the most important thing you can do to promote your health overall.
Alabama Family Dentistry Keeps Tabs On Your Oral Health
In addition to the basics of good oral hygiene, Alabama Family Dentistry’s with the above information smart patients can be aware of, and avoid habits that can damage the health of their mouth, gums and teeth, as well as hints to help protect their teeth. It’s key to have Alabama Family Dentistry keep tabs on your oral health, and provide you with the preventative oral care tools to keep seemingly innocent habits from becoming damaging habits. See our dentists and dental hygienists at one of our locations throughout the Birmingham, Gardendale, Warrior, Sumiton, and surrounding communities on a regular basis.