Everybody knows that maintaining good dental health is a cornerstone of living a healthy and fit lifestyle. At the same time, dental problems are some of the most prevalent health issues faced by Americans. According to the national institute of dental and Craniofacial Research, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children. It’s seven times more common than hay fever and five times more common than asthma. The majority of adults in the U.S. also show signs of gingival or periodontal diseases.
Oral health has also been linked to disease prevention in other areas. For example, some research has shown that having periodontal disease could raise the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. But aside from the obvious brushing and flossing, what can be done to maintain dental health? You should avoid:
1. Chewing On Ice
Chewing on ice is a habit that many people find pleasurable, especially on a hot day. Unfortunately, teeth are not properly equipped to chomp down on materials as hard as ice, meaning that cracking, chipping and even fractures are likely to occur with regular ice chewing. Even if no direct damage is sustained, chewing on ice can still cause enamel to wear down and can make teeth more vulnerable to decay.
2. Grinding Teeth
Grinding your teeth, also known as bruxism, is an often stress-related habit that can lead to loosening, fracturing and even loss of teeth. Unfortunately, many people are unaware that they grind their teeth because the grinding often occurs during sleep. If you consistently wake up with a sore jaw or dull headache, you may need to contact a dentist to examine your teeth and recommend treatment options if evidence of bruxism is found.
3. Too Much Sugar
Out of all the bad dental habits on this list, sugar consumption may be the most obvious – and also the most ignored. Simply put, sugar is wreaking havoc on our health. Consuming too much candy, soda and sports drinks is leading to high tooth decay levels around the world, yet their consumption levels do not appear to be decreasing significantly. If you’re at all worried about protecting your teeth, limit your sugar intake. Instead of soda and sports drinks, simply choose water.
4. Sticky and Starchy Food
Sticky foods like dried fruit and gummy candy, as well as starchy foods like potato chips, are notorious for lodging themselves in-between your teeth. A simple brushing might not get rid of these types of food – flossing is necessary to prevent the plaque buildup that can occur from leaving these foods in your teeth.
5. Coffee and Wine
Coffee and wine are notorious teeth stainers. Studies have shown that coffee stains can be the most difficult type of stain to get rid of, and simple brushing doesn’t do a whole lot to combat them. Stains are not just a cosmetic problem either – very heavy coffee stains can cause teeth to be overly sticky and more apt to attract bacteria and food particles. Not to mention, these stains can lead to…
6. Overuse of Harsh Whiteners
Whiteners should be used only as directed, and their overuse can lead to serious oral pain and discomfort. To ensure that your teeth are whitened safely and correctly, it’s best to see a dentist.
7. Using Your Teeth as a Tool
It’s something we’ve probably all done, but using your teeth to rip open a difficult plastic bag or open a stubborn bottle can cause your teeth to chip, crack or otherwise weaken. Simply make sure you have scissors, twist-jar openers, and any other tools handy (especially in the kitchen) to prevent you from resorting to using your teeth.
8. Playing Sports Without Mouth Protection
The stereotype of the hockey player who’s missing teeth came about for a reason: contact sports can lead to serious oral injuries. One of the most potentially hazardous dental habits is to participate in football, cycling, hockey, skating or other possibly dangerous activity without using a helmet or mouth guard. According to Colgate, mouth guards prevent around 200,000 mouth injuries to football players each year.
9. Chewing on Pens or Pencils
Chewing on your pen is a nervous habit that can not only lead to illness, but can also cause your teeth to weaken or become loose. To break this habit, try popping in a piece of sugar-free gum any time you get the urge to chew on your writing utensil.
10. Biting Your Nails
Similarly to chewing on pens and pencils, nail-biting is a habit that can lead to minor infections, worn tooth enamel, and tooth misalignment. The habit is notoriously hard to break, though, and some estimate that as many as 10 to 20 percent of adults in the U.S. are nail-biters. However, special nail polishes can go a long way toward curing a nail-biting habit.
The effects of smoking on teeth are well-known. Smoking can cause discoloration, bad breath, jaw bone loss, increased plaque buildup, increased risk of gum disease, and increased risk of oral cancer.
12. Brushing Too Hard
Bad dental habits can actually occur while trying to clean your teeth. The ADA usually recommends soft-brush toothbrushes, as bristles that are too stiff can end up damaging tooth enamel. Brushing too soon after an acidic meal can also cause some enamel to break down – give your teeth about 30 minutes to allow saliva to rinse acid away before brushing. Also, avoid brushing more than three times per day.
13. Using a Toothpick
Trying to remove food that’s stuck between your teeth is a noble goal, but products such as floss or interdental brushes are less likely to damage your gums. If you must use a toothpick, do it gently.