A common nervous habit that many people develop in childhood is chewing pencils. If you struggled with test anxiety as a kid, you might have chewed on your pencil before or while taking a test to help soothe yourself. While pencil-chewing may not be as damaging as, say, smoking, it can lead to or worsen a condition in the mouth called hyposensitivity. It means that the mouth is damaged so that the person cannot feel sensations as they normally would. In addition to hyposensitivity, pencil-chewing can cause cracks and fractures in the teeth. The habit can also damage the lining of the mouth and leave the person more susceptible to everyday pathogens, such as the cold and flu virus. Those splinters can also damage existing dental work, such as fillings or crowns.
Did you know that drinking too much alcohol can harm your teeth in addition to all of these problems? Heavy drinking is having more than eight drinks (remember that a drink is not necessarily how much you can fit into one glass) per week for women or 15 drinks per week for men. Heavy drinking is associated with canker sores, which can make brushing too painful, and it can lead to tooth decay, along with gum disease, and even oral cancer. Moderate drinking is having no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men, and even moderate drinking can lead to tooth-staining and tooth decay. You should alternate one glass of water with every drink. Make sure that you brush and floss your teeth after drinking to eliminate all of the sugar in the alcohol that builds on the teeth.
Some nutritionists recommend eating five or six small meals throughout the day to help keep your metabolism going. Nevertheless, following this advice can be problematic for your teeth. You may be eating healthy foods all throughout the day. However, if you are constantly grazing instead of sitting down to eat regular meals, you are not giving your teeth a break that they need. Your mouth naturally begins to create more acid to help initiate the process of digestion. That acid remains in your mouth for a full 30 minutes after you finish eating, and it is not good for the enamel on your teeth. If you are putting in even just a few nuts or potato chips every half-hour, the result is that your mouth remains in that acidic state, making your teeth more prone to enamel breakdown. Instead of grazing throughout the day, eat at set times and then give your teeth a break.
There are plenty of foods that you know are bad for your teeth. Anything with high levels of sugar (i.e. cookies, cake, donuts, brownies, ice cream, even ketchup, and barbecue sauce) leaves teeth susceptible to bacteria showing up and feasting on the sugar that is stuck to them. You know that you should brush and floss after eating foods with sugar, but what about savory foods, like potato chips? As far as teeth are concerned, the problem with potato chips is that they have a high level of starch. After all, potatoes are starch, and potato chips are just potatoes that are cut, fried, and well-seasoned. The starch in chips can easily get stuck in the crevices between your teeth and become a breeding ground for the bacteria that cause enamel breakdown and cavities. Further, starch breaks down into sugar, and we all know the harm that sugar poses to your teeth.
Plenty of us are addicted to caffeine and cannot imagine getting out of bed and actually being functional people without a morning cup of coffee. Recent studies reveal the many health benefits of drinking coffee, including the possibility of warding off Alzheimer’s disease! Yet there are several reasons why coffee is not so great for your teeth. One of those reasons is tannins, a polyphenol found in coffee, tea, and wine that causes discoloration. Tannins are the source of the yellowing and browning of the teeth associated with a lifestyle of drinking a lot of coffee. Another reason coffee is not so great for your teeth is its acidity. Coffee hits at about a 4 on the pH scale; neutral pH is 7, and acidity that starts to weaken enamel is 4. It means that coffee has enough a high enough acidity that it can cause the damage that ultimately leads to cavities.
Soda is one of the worst things you can put into your body, and not only for an acid content that is sufficient to dissolve baby teeth completely. It won’t dissolve adult teeth, but it will wear them down pretty badly. The sugar-acid duo in soda is enough to turn your mouth into a garden of cavities, leaving you with the need for significant dental work (and a considerable bill). Furthermore, in case you thought diet soda was an easy way out, diet soda can be even more acidic than regular! And lastly, the artificial colors in soda look more appealing than industrial sludge and byproduct. The artificial colors will stain your teeth, so if you are into having a nice smile and not destroying your body, just stay away from soda.
If you use a nighttime mouth guard to prevent yourself from grinding your teeth at night, you may need to schedule an appointment with your dentist, especially if that mouth guard came over the counter without a prescription. The FDA does not monitor every single kind of mouth guard that hits the market.The problem is that wearing a mouth guard can lead to a problem called an open bite. An open bite means that your front teeth on top do not touch the corresponding teeth on the bottom, but the molars in the back of your mouth are constantly grinding against each other. Over time, a mouth guard can actually cause the molars to rise out of their regular position, leading to thousands of dollars in needed dental work. The problem is undoubtedly rare, but if you have been wearing a mouth guard, schedule a visit to your dentist. Even if your dentist approves the mouth guard, you should monitor its use to ensure that you are not developing an open bite.
The very word “toothpick” suggests that the item is something you should use to pick food out of your teeth. Many people rush to grab a toothpick when they have finished eating and want to ensure that they do not have a piece of spinach stuck in their teeth. Nevertheless, are toothpicks really something that you should be using in your mouth? Many dentists say no. Toothpicks can break off and get lodged inside your gums, basically creating splinters inside your mouth! Using toothpicks can also cause infections in your mouth, especially if everyone is grabbing from a community toothpick holder.
We’ve all done this one. You can’t get the ketchup packet open, so you use your teeth to rip it open. Alternatively, you don’t have a pair of scissors handy, so you use your teeth to cut through some Duct tape. Have you ever used your teeth to open a bottle? Now that one is an absolute no-no. Teeth are not tools. Well, not for anything outside digestive purposes. Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, but it is not for glass and metal. Your teeth will lose. Even if you can open a bottle with your teeth one or two times, you are damaging your teeth by, at a minimum, creating micro-fracture that will build up and cause serious problems. Teeth are for chewing and smiling, and using them in any other way can lead to severe problems.
Not treating a serious cough can lead to problems ranging from hoarseness to pulling muscles in your back. Oftentimes, people grab cough syrup the second they begin coughing, even when the cough is not severe and will resolve quickly on its own. The problem is that cough syrup has tons of sugar. Companies that make cough syrup pile on the sugar to hide the awful taste of the medication that will alleviate the cough; otherwise, you would not be able to swallow the stuff. That sugar is good news for the harmful bacteria in your mouth that cause cavities and bad news for you if you want to avoid getting your teeth drilled. Don’t reach for the cough syrup right away whenever you have a cough. See if it will resolve on its own, and then try some natural remedies before turning to medication. Consider using cough drops, which have less sugar than cough syrup. If you need cough syrup, look for some low in sugar.
Does your child suck their thumb? You may not be too concerned unless other people are around who may look at you or your child disapprovingly. The problem with thumb-sucking is that it actually causes teeth to become misaligned. Thumb-sucking may be cute when your child is an infant or toddler. However, according to many dentists, the habit begins to be problematic for oral health by the age of four. Prolonged thumb-sucking, or excessive thumb-sucking for children under four, can lead to the condition known as an open bite. An open bite is when the top front teeth do not meet the corresponding bottom front teeth, but the molars do, and they grind against each other. The child’s palate can actually become narrower, leading to problems when the adult teeth begin to come in. These conditions can lead to speech problems, swallowing difficulties, and even sleep apnea. If your child is sucking their thumb, let the doctor know. The habit can affect your child’s quality of life.
We know that we should brush our teeth at least two times a day, preferably more, especially after eating sugary foods. However, did you know that there is such a thing as overbrushing your teeth? Dentists say that if you brush more than three times per day, you run the risk of actually harming your teeth! Excessive brushing can lead to abrasion of the enamel from the mechanical action of constantly swiping at it. Plus, too much fluoride can lead to discoloration. Additionally, if you are brushing too vigorously or the bristles on your toothbrush are too hard, you can create problems for your teeth. The fact is that very few people have to call their dentists with problems that arise from overbrushing. The problem is usually not brushing enough! But if you find that you desire to brush more than three times per day, you may need to schedule an appointment with your dentist to see if your compulsive brushing has damaged the enamel on your teeth.
Grinding the teeth is known as bruxism, and many people experience bruxism while they are asleep. There are many problems associated with bruxism, one being that the constant grinding of the teeth can begin to wear them away over time. If you are experiencing enamel loss alongside microfractures, your dentist may tell you that you are grinding your teeth at night and prescribe a night guard. If they do, make sure you ask lots of questions because night guards are also associated with dental problems, including the development of an open bite (see above). Another problem caused by grinding your teeth at night is inflammation of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). It is located right next to your ear. This excruciating condition is characterized by a clicking sound whenever you open or close your mouth and can feel like an incessant ear infection.
If you haven’t heard the news that smoking is bad for you, well, it is probably the single worst habit you can ever develop, at least in terms of your body’s health. Smoking leads to heart disease, which is the leading killer of Americans. As if those problems were not enough to either quit today or never pick up a cigarette, the nicotine and numerous other chemicals in tobacco also cause oral cancer. Smoking also causes discoloration of your teeth and bad breath. That bad breath is an indication that smoking is creating an ideal environment in your mouth for harmful bacteria to thrive, leading to cavities and other forms of tooth decay. The best solution to all of the problems caused by smoking is to quit smoking. In the meantime, while you are trying to stop, make sure you brush and floss twice a day and have regular check-ups with your dentist.
Lip piercings may be trendy and cool, but it also creates severe trauma in your mouth and the surrounding area, sometimes leading to irreparable damage. Scar tissue can build up around the piercing, leading to potential dental problems. But serious issues emerge by playing with the stud; dentists have seen patients whose gums have receded away from their teeth because of playing with the stud of their lip piercing, and the damage can be irreversible. Some patients that like to catch the stud in their teeth have fractured and chipped their teeth. If you have a lip piercing, do not play with the stud at a minimum! If you do have a lip piercing and are not ready to get rid of it, some guidelines can help minimize the damage that it can cause. Make sure that you only use sterilized materials. This applies to the place where you get the piercing in the first place, as well as how you handle the piercing site afterward). If possible, use studs made of a material softer than metal, such as acrylic.
Like lip piercings, plenty of young people think that tongue piercings are trendy and cool, and they may even pierce themselves before they become aware of the consequences of getting a tongue piercing. They may even have both a lip and tongue piercing, and some young people even like to pierce their gums. People sometimes call these piercings “smilies.” Like lip piercings, tongue piercings can cause permanent damage to the teeth, especially if the person likes to bite down on the stud or play with it between their teeth. The result can be the erosion of the enamel, chipping, and fracturing of the teeth. There are other problems that tongue piercings can cause. One is that the piercing usually goes through major nerves in the tongue and can lead to numbness, loss of taste, and even how the mouth moves. Like with lip piercings, the damage can be permanent. Another problem is the genuine possibility of infection. Food is constantly passing through the mouth, along with lots of bacteria and viruses, and having a hole inside your tongue is asking for it to become infected.
We have said this one before, and you have probably heard it repeatedly. However, sugar is one of the worst things you can eat for your teeth. It just might be the worst thing, short of battery acid. Nevertheless, the pH of some kinds of soda is not far from that of battery acid. Think of your mouth as a battlefield, and it is fighting to protect your entire body. When you eat sugar, you feed the enemy attacking your body, the bad bacteria. That harmful bacteria will feast on the sugar and proliferate inside your mouth until you end up with nasty cavities and the need for fillings.
Eating ice cubes seems harmless enough. You can get your cold fix without any of the sugar that you would typically find in ice cream and soda by munching down on some ice cubes. And let’s face it: some people are obsessed with ice. It might not be a full ice cube, of course. It seems as though soft drink cups filled with crushed ice will do the trick for those longing for that cold crunch. However, dentists say that eating ice cubes is pretty bad for your teeth. The habit may be a symptom of a medical issue, such as pica (eating things that are not usually considered foods and have no nutritional value). The ice can damage the nerves in your teeth and even lead to fractures and loss of enamel. Many people who eat ice do so because they are deficient in iron or because they struggle with anxiety.
Are you a nail-biter? If not, chances are good you know an individual who is one. It’s one thing to have a hangnail and want to correct it on the spot (if you don’t have clippers). However, you might even know someone who chews their nails down to the nubs, sometimes causing them to bleed. This bad habit is a big no-no, both for your nails and teeth. Your fingernails harbor more bacteria and viruses than you have ever heard of. What do you think happens to your mouth when you start using your teeth to bite them off? You bring all those nasty bacteria into it, setting yourself up for infection. To make things worse, your fingernails can both chip and crack your teeth and, when inside your mouth, cause abrasive damage that makes your mouth even more susceptible to infection. For people who have braces on their teeth, the potential for damage is even more significant. Go to the store, pay two dollars for a pair of nail clippers, and start clipping your nails like an adult.