10 Bad Habits That Can Harm Your Teeth
Everyone knows that they should brush, floss and gargle regularly to take care of their teeth, but they may not realize that other, non-dental habits they do every day might be counteracting their oral efforts. Here are some no-nos you should minimize in order to make your smile all it can be.
1. Eating Sugary Foods
Growing up, we’re all taught that sweets cause cavities, but we’re not necessarily taught how. You see, sugar is absorbed by bacteria in the mouth, which then produce acid that eats away at your tooth enamel, leading to cavities. Sticky sugary foods — like gummies and yes, even raisins — are particularly harmful because of the length of time they adhere to the teeth. Even “healthy” fruit juices can erode enamel over time because of the sugar content.
2. Drinking Soda and Energy Beverages
Even if you drink sugar-free diet soda, the acidity of the drinks can still erode your enamel and cause decay around the gum line. Sports and energy drinks, meanwhile, might not “feel” as acidic because they’re not carbonated, but a 2012 study compared drinking them to “bathing your teeth in acid.” So, um, yeah. If you must drink soda or sports/energy beverages, drink them quickly; lingering only prolongs exposure to the acid. It’s recommended to drink through a straw to minimize the drink’s contact with the teeth.
3. Drinking Tea and Coffee
Tea and coffee can stain the teeth, turning them yellow or causing brown areas to form between the teeth. Additionally, caffeine might contribute to the breaking down of the enamel on your teeth, and it can cause you to clench or grind your teeth, which leads us to…
4. Grinding Your Teeth
As you might imagine, grinding your teeth wears them down over time. Catching yourself doing it while you’re awake shouldn’t be too hard, but if you do it in your sleep, you may need to buy a mouth guard.
Like tea and coffee, tobacco — whether smoked or chewed — can stain your teeth. Even worse, it can cause oral cancer and reduce blood flow to the gums, leaving your gums and teeth vulnerable to infection. Because of the direct contact with the gums, chewing tobacco is considered more hazardous than smoking.
6. Drinking Alcohol
Alcohol can eat away at the enamel on your teeth with its sugary and acidic content. It also dries out the mouth, limiting the amount of saliva produced, which in turn allows bacteria and plaque to accumulate on the teeth.
7. Taking Drugs
Like alcohol, many over-the-counter drugs can dry up the saliva in your mouth, allowing bacteria to proliferate. Additionally, biting into hard pills can damage your teeth. As far as illegal drugs go, tooth damage might be the least of your worries, but it’s clear that the harsh chemicals in drugs like methamphetamine can literally rot your teeth.
8. Biting Hard Objects
Do you often find yourself chomping on a pencil, chewing on your fingernails or opening a glass bottle with your teeth? Do you really need to be told why this is bad for you? For goodness’ sake, use a bottle opener. When your teeth have been worn down to Tic Tac-like nubs, it will be too late. Even hard food items, like ice, hard pretzels, popcorn kernels and hard candy can cause damage. Ice is double trouble because not only is it hard, but it’s also so cold it can cause cracks in tooth enamel.
9. Sucking on Lemons
Apparently, some people find sucking on lemons to be a pleasureful experience, but that sour taste should be a clue that these fruits have a very high acid content, which can eat away at the enamel on your teeth. Citric acid is the worst acid for your teeth, so it’s probably best to avoid limes as well. Oranges and grapefruits, by comparison, have a much lower concentration of citric acid.
10. Sucking Your Thumb
Young children who suck excessively on their thumbs are at risk of developing buck teeth, because as the thumb rests in the mouth, it ends up pushing the top teeth outward. The good news: this shouldn’t be an issue until the child’s permanent teeth start to come in — around age six.
(Sources: WebMD, CBS News, LiveStrong.com, Helium, USA Today, The New York Times)