Your diet and dental hygiene practices are not the only things that can have a negative impact on your dental health. Even if you are eating tooth-healthy foods, brushing and flossing every day, and regularly visiting your dentist, there are several habits that you may not even realize are doing damage to your teeth. Here are four bad dental habits to avoid.
It is a well-known fact that smoking can have negative impacts on your overall health, but you may not be aware of how detrimental it is to your teeth in particular. Smoking yellows teeth, increases jaw bone loss, and puts you at greater risk of a host of other diseases of the teeth and gums. Additionally, smoking slows saliva production, decreasing the rate at which bacteria is washed off of your teeth and increasing the chance of cavities.
Brushing Immediately After Eating
While brushing your teeth immediately after a meal may sound like a good habit for dental hygiene, it can actually be causing damage to your teeth. Your mouth uses saliva to naturally dissolve sugars and acids on the top layer of enamel. If you brush immediately after eating, you are not waiting long enough for these food residues to be washed away. You may be promoting cavities by creating microscopic scratches in your enamel while acids and sugars are still present. Food particles can hide in these scratches where your saliva cannot dissolve them.
Instead of brushing after a meal, simply rinse your teeth with water to remove loose particles, and then let your saliva do its job. Wait at least half an hour to brush after you eat so that acids and sugars have had time to be dissolved. This will let you remove any bacteria that your saliva could not destroy without the risk of cavities.
Chewing or Tearing Hard Objects
Although our teeth are only designed to grind food for digestion, many people use their teeth as tools or to chew on non-food items. Crunching ice, chewing pencils, and biting nails are all examples of habits that can damage your teeth. You should also avoid using your teeth to pry off bottle caps or tear tags off clothing.
Even when it does not feel like you are putting excessive pressure on your teeth, there is a risk of chipping or loosening them. This is usually because of the angle of the object you are biting on or the use of a tearing motion. Your teeth are designed to apply vertical pressure on the food you chew, but they are poorly equipped to handle torque. Tearing and chewing objects can cause the thin edges of your dental crowns to chip or rotate the tooth slightly in its socket and weaken the roots.
Grinding Your Teeth
Many people grind their teeth during the day as a reaction to stress or anxiety. Teeth grinding can also occur during sleep due to an abnormal bite or momentary sensory arousal that activates motor neurons in the jaw. Whether it occurs during the day or at night, teeth grinding puts undue stress on the teeth and can lead to cracking, frequent tension headaches, and temporomandibular disorders.
If you are primarily suffering from daytime teeth grinding, you can train yourself to grind your teeth less often by resting the tip of your tongue between your teeth. Using a stress ball or providing yourself with other distractions from stress can help you avoid grinding your teeth. Because teeth grinding at night is not a conscious process that you can prevent on your own, dentists will often provide patients with a mouth guard to protect their teeth at night.
By practicing good dental hygiene, eating a tooth-healthy diet, and avoiding habits that can damage your teeth, you can maintain a bright and healthy smile for a lifetime.