You might be religious about brushing your teeth twice a day–maybe you even manage to brush after every meal–and when it comes to dental floss few have your skill, but did you know despite your best dental efforts, there are other habits that hurt your teeth?
That’s right — even things you might think are innocent (like opening a bag with your teeth) can be causing harm.
People often incorrectly think that because teeth are hard they can withstand anything we throw at them: opening plastic, biting fingernails and chewing on hard candy, but the truth is that teeth are fragile, and once you’ve lost one there aren’t any others waiting to take its place!
So what are the habits that hurt your teeth? Read below to see how many you are guilty of.
- Chewing ice: According to East Portland Dentistry, chewing ice is one of the worst habits that hurt your teeth. Not only can chewing on ice crack teeth, chronic chewing can irritate the softer tissue inside teeth, causing regular toothaches. Chewing ice can result in tooth sensitivity whenever an individual eats or drinks a hot or cold item.
- Getting mouth piercings: While it might not seem like a love of piercings could damage your teeth, having metal objects inside the mouth always carries a risk you might inadvertently bite down on one. This could crack a tooth and can also cause damage to any present fillings.
- Teeth grinding: Also known as bruxism, teeth grinding is not always a conscious habit but is one of the many habits that hurt your teeth. Not surprisingly, grinding your teeth together can damage the protective outer layer of enamel, eventually exposing the softer tissues and nerves inside a tooth. Gradual wear and tear on teeth can also make them more likely to crack or break under other circumstances (like when chewing ice!).
- Cough drops and hard candy: Though usually in your mouth for two very different reasons, cough drops and hard candy are ranked together when it comes to habits that hurt your teeth because they are both hard, sugary food items. While there’s little harm in using a cough drop when you need one, individuals who enjoy sucking on hard candies are constantly exposing their teeth to a steady dissolution of bacteria-encouraging sugar.
- Sticky candy: Anything with sugar in it has the potential to cause tooth decay, but sticky candy also adheres to teeth, staying in place for long periods of time, allowing sugar and other enamel-destroying acids to work their magic for hours at a time.
- Enjoying too much soda: Are you a soda drinker? You may want to quit for the sake of your teeth. Not only does soda have approximately 11 teaspoons of sugar per serving, it also contains citric and phosphoric acids which wear away tooth enamel. Diet sodas, though they contain less sugar, are usually higher in acid content.
- Using teeth as a tool: The University of Connecticut indicates that, while it may seem harmless, using your teeth as a tool can easily chip away enamel–even if you’re just opening a plastic bag. All it takes is just one slip of your hand holding the bag and teeth can clack together or bump harder objects on what you are trying to open.
- Smoking: Among the various other health issues associated with smoking, this is also one of the habits that hurt your teeth. Any regular tobacco use can stain teeth and eventually cause tooth loss from gum disease.
- Don’t brush too hard: Even though brushing is your friend when it comes to keeping teeth clean and bacteria-free, brushing too vigorously or using a brush that is too stiff can push back gums, wear away enamel, cause temperature sensitivity, and even leave teeth open to cavities.
- Nail biting: Any time you bite down on something non-edible you risk damaging your teeth. Nail biting is one of those habits that hurt your teeth because it carries the potential to chip enamel. This is especially true if an individual who bites his or her nails uses the very edge of their tooth, which prevents good distribution of pressure.
- Use toothpicks sparingly: While you don’t want to leave bits of food in between your teeth, be careful when using a toothpick. Damaging the gums can cause infection which can weaken teeth and cause tooth loss in extreme situations.
- Eating lemons and drinking wine: Sure, lemons are soft, but they are very acidic, and eating lemons often can wear away tooth enamel and expose teeth to bacteria and thus decay. Similarly, wine and alcohol is very acidic and can also cause enamel on teeth to wear away. If you enjoy drinking alcohol regularly, dink water frequently in between.
The lesson to be taken away from this list of habits that hurt your teeth? Avoid anything that has the potential to damage your enamel.
This means hard objects like chewing on pencils or pen tops.
And stay away from those items filled with sugar and acid.
If you don’t want to cut out those sugary, acidic treats altogether, be sure to rinse your mouth with water if you can’t take time to brush, or do something to encourage saliva production.
“Saliva bathes the teeth and helps remove plaque and bacterial accumulations from the teeth’s surface. Less plaque equals less risk for bacterial acids to cause decay,” said Robert Sorin, DDS, clinical instructor in the department of dentistry and oral surgery at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, to WebMD.
Brushing also helps reduce the risk of enamel decay, but experts advise to avoid brushing immediately after eating or drinking something acidic (like soda).
Diving right in with your brush may actually spread acid around the mouth; instead, rinse first with water or chew some sugarless gum to clean the teeth with saliva. Then you can feel free to brush.