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.