Looking after our teeth is often taken for granted. For most of us, daily brushing and the obligatory 6-monthly dental checks are the best we can throw at our pearly whites. While we are often mindful of what we eat in terms of our weight, we don’t always pay the same attention to detail for our teeth.
Having said that, most of us understand that sugar and particularly sweets are bad for our teeth. Who hasn’t had some sort of tooth debacle as a result of a Christmas, Quality Street, penny toffee. At best it’s just stuck in your teeth for an inordinate amount of time, and at worst it ends up landing you a costly trip to the dentist. The Christmas toffee is definitely a tooth hazard.
There’s more. It’s not just toffee, sweets, fizzy drinks and juices that play havoc with your dental health. Read ahead carefully and take heed if you want to keep your gnashers and gums in good health.
Cold but harmless right? Wrong. Ice may be natural and sugar free, but chewing on hard, frozen cubes of ice can chip or crack your teeth. The combination of cold temperature and the brittleness of the ice can cause microscopic cracks in the surface of your tooth enamel. You may not notice it straight away, but regularly chewing on ice can lead to bigger dental problems later on. Crunching on ice is a sure-fire way to trigger tooth pain in sensitive teeth too.
- Our teeth aren’t tools
Using your teeth to open bottles, nail polish, or such like is incredibly hard on your teeth. Even ripping envelopes and opening bags of crisps with your teeth presents them with unnecessary wear and tear. Continual trauma to your teeth will end up in disaster. Think twice about using your teeth as tools. Get the right gadgets to do the job for you.
- Teeth grinding or jaw clenching
Whether during the day, at night or both, teeth grinding is for some a perpetual subconscious action. Bruxism is the medical term used for teeth grinding and clenching the jaw, and it plays havoc with your dental integrity. It’s no surprise that persistent tooth grinding wears down the enamel on your teeth.
Some cases are thought to be related to stress and anxiety, so seeking help with the cause of your stress is the best long term solution. Consider meditation, regular exercise, and even counselling to work on the route cause. Cutting back on caffeine and alcohol can also be effective in managing stress.
For others bruxism is caused by an abnormal bite or missing teeth. Talk to your dentist to see if there are any solutions and ask about a mouth guard to prevent you grinding your teeth at night.
- Chewing your pen
If you’re caught in the subconscious loop of chewing your pens and pencils, make a conscious effort to stop. Chewing on pens is disastrous for your teeth. Biting hard plastic can cause hairline cracks in the enamel on your teeth.
It’s not terribly hygienic either – your pen has been rolling around on a variety of surfaces. Even worse, has someone else chewed the pen before you? Ergh. Stick a big eraser on the end of your pen and get yourself some gum (sugar-free of course). While gum isn’t exactly a great option, it’s better than risking a lifetime of pen chewing.
- Biting your nails
Nail biting is another poor dental hygiene habit. Not only do hard nails have the same effect on teeth as the innocuous pen, there’s a whole host of bacteria stuck under our nails. Nail biting is putting you at greater risk of infection if you’re regularly sticking your fingers in your mouth. And chewing on hard fingernails can chip your teeth. If you have braces on your teeth, research shows that nail biting during orthodontic treatment can also cause the roots of your teeth to become weaker.
- Tooth brushing mistakes
We are often given advice by our dentist on the best way to brush our teeth. Here are some of the things NOT to do.
- Don’t use a hard-bristled brush
- Don’t brush your teeth more than 3 times a day
- Don’t brush too hard
- Don’t always start in the same place
- Don’t leave your toothbrush laying down at the edge of the sink
- Don’t let brushes touch
- Don’t brush straight after consuming acidic foods and drinks
- Don’t forget to change your tooth brush regularly (every 3 months)
- Constant snacking
You may well think that eating little and often is best. Apparently constant snacking is not good for your teeth. Snacking produces less saliva than a larger meal. With less saliva food bits are more easily stuck in between the teeth for longer. If you can’t stop the snacking, switch to snacks that are low in sugar and starch.
For expert advice on how to keep your teeth and gums in the very best of health book a check-up with your dentist.
Article provided by Sara Bryant, working alongside dental clinics including Black Swan Dental Spa who strive to improve dental hygiene.