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Little things you do every day can have a big impact on your teeth. Just ask Ms. Lisa, who always had excellent check-ups – until recently. She was horrified when the dentist told her she had a cavity. Then Lisa realized she had made a small lifestyle change that was impacting the health of her teeth: She was consuming energy drinks twice a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. She would open a can and then sip the sugary drink for several hours. That bad habit allowed the sugar to sit on her teeth for a longer period of time, and the sugar led to tooth decay.
We asked Dunedin dentist Amy Doan, DDS, for her Top 10 list of bad habits that can wreck your teeth. Here are some of the ones she sees most often:
1. Continuously sipping soda or sweet coffee. The sugar from a single sip can sit on your teeth for 20 minutes, and the accumulation of sugar can lead to rampant decay, Dr. Doan said. If you can give up the sugary drinks, fantastic. If you can’t give them up, then try to drink the liquid within a 15-minute time period, then either brush your teeth or drink some water to wash the sugar away.
2. Brushing too hard. Some people think using a hard-bristled toothbrush will scrub more plaque off their gums, but often they may be damaging the enamel or gums by brushing too hard. Dr. Doan suggests switching to a soft-bristled manual toothbrush or an electric toothbrush instead.
3. Sucking often on cough drops. Many brands of cough drops contain a lot of sugar, which will sit on your teeth. If you’re using cough drops because you have dry mouth, then your rate of tooth decay may be even worse, Dr. Doan said.
4. Chewing ice and crunching on hard candy. This can fracture your teeth.
5. Forgetting to use sunscreen on your lips. Exposure to the sun can cause oral cancer.
6. Grinding or clenching your teeth. This can be a tough habit to break because many people do this in their sleep. The motion wears down your teeth which can cause problems with your bite and lead to fractures, loose teeth, and pain in your jaw and teeth. Ask your dentist about a night guard or other remedies.
7. Using your teeth to open anything! Don’t use your teeth to open a bottle, a barrette, a bobby pin, or anything else that is hard. It can lead to chipped or fractured teeth.
8. Chewing tobacco. You knew this one had to be on the list! Popping a wad of tobacco into your mouth can lead to oral cancer. Why would you even want to risk it?
9. Piercing your tongue. Dr. Doan has seen teenagers and adults who have accidentally bit their tongue stud or ring and ended up chipping a tooth. The tongue stud or ring could also damage gums. Even more importantly, the piercing creates a wound in the mouth, which is a highly-bacterial environment and could increase the risk of infection. These infections can be life-threatening, so why do it?
10. Using your teeth to snip thread or fishing line. The line could slip and cut your gum line.
And here’s another bad habit that starts early: Sucking a thumb or pacifier. Parents, this one is important. Giving your child a pacifier or allowing a thumb-sucker to continue once their teeth start emerging can cause the teeth to flare. This can affect their bite, their self-esteem and even your pocketbook should your child need braces as a result.
There are other bad habits like biting your nails or cracking nuts with your teeth, but we’ll save those for another day. If you have anything you want to add to the list, let us know in the comments section below!
This article was written by Amy Doan, DDS.