“Take care of your teeth,” they say, “and they’ll last a lifetime.” And, while we tend to know that “taking care of our teeth” entails brushing, flossing, eating well, and going to the dentist, we tend to ignore a lot of this wisdom. So, here are the top ten things (in no particular order) you might be doing right now that can do some serious harm to your mouth.
1. Using the Wrong Toothpaste: A mistake in this area can wear your teeth down for years without you having the slightest idea it’s happening. The Food and Drug Administration ranks the abrasiveness of toothpastes by using what is known as the relative/radioactive dentin abrasion scale. Anything above 100 is considered abrasive, and anything over 150, highly abrasive. Above 200 is worth avoiding for certain.
2. Chewing on Anything Other Than Food (this includes ice!): Sometimes we develop the habit of chewing on pencils, pens and pen caps when we’re bored or are focusing intently on some task at work. As you might imagine, this is a wonderful way to go through writing utensils. It’s also a quick way to break a tooth. If you’re doing this, stop.
3. Constant Snacking: Despite the appeal of snacking, practicing this habit means your enamel is in constant interaction with acids from food, which can wear away at your teeth. Even worse is snacking on sweet or starchy foods like mints, candy, throat lozenges or pretzels. If you consider yourself to be a snacker, try out something that is low in sugar and starch — like carrots, jerky or cheese, and limit your snacking to certain periods of the day … snacking constantly is bad for your teeth and your waistline!
4. Guzzling Fruit Juice: We know it’s hard to believe, but fruit juice packs nearly as much sugar as soda. Stick with water (either carbonated or flat), and if you want a little bit of flavor, some lemon or lime juice can be added sparingly for a bit of liveliness.
5. Drinking Sports Drinks Instead of Water for Hydration: Athletes concerned about hydration and balancing the nutrient levels in their bodies can benefit from sports drinks. Most of us, however, are consuming these drinks as common beverages, and more frequently than we should. Popular drinks in this category are high in acid as well, which literally eats away at tooth enamel. They can also trigger acid reflux systems, which drive acid into the mouth and onto teeth – Not good!
6. Enjoying He-Man, She-Woman Attempts at Opening Packages with Your Teeth: Just say no.
7. Grinding Your Teeth: Check with your dentist at your next visit to see if you’re a grinder. They’re able to tell because of the angle of any bone loss you might be experiencing. Then, ask them about mouthguards or splints to protect your teeth.
8. Getting Pierced: Other than the fact that tongue and lip piercings can harbor bacteria that can turn to infection, those little shiny objects also beat the heck out of the inside of your mouth. Piercings near the gumline wear away the gums and the enamel of the teeth nearby, and tongue piercings are often munched-on unwittingly, which can lead to chipped or broken teeth. Piercings are indeed trendy these days, and we understand that scare tactics aren’t likely to convince anyone to avoid one. However, a frank talk about the risks with your dentist might make you all the wiser.
9. Speaking of Mouthguards: Mouthguards protect against the loss of teeth, damage to the jaw and even concussion. There’s really no excuse for not wearing one if you’re involved in a contact sport.
10. Excessive Bleachers: Not gymnasium bleachers, but teeth whitening, of course. If you’re experiencing excessive gum and tooth sensitivity, you may want to take a break and speak with your dentist before continuing.