Well, it’s that time of the year when we all make resolutions. This year, make the resolution to care for your teeth; you’ll be happy you did!
We all want perfect, healthy white teeth without any cavities. But aside from sugar, many people don’t realize what some of the most harmful habits for your teeth are. The following list reveals a few of the items that many of us indulge in, some of which should be avoided, and others that simply require some additional oral hygiene on your part:
1. Chewing on ice. It may be natural and sugar free, so you may think ice is harmless, but if you tend to chew on the cubes once you’ve finished a beverage, you should be aware that they can potentially cause damage in the form of a chip or crack to your teeth.
2. Cough medicines and cough drops. Cough medicine contains sugar, and since it’s often taken after people brush just before they go to bed, it can cause tooth erosion and decay. In addition, cough drops are loaded with sugar. So after soothing your throat with a lozenge or cough medicine be sure to brush well. Consider using sugar-free lozenges as an alternative.
3. Soda (even diet). Most of your favorite sugary sodas contain phosphoric and citric acids that can weaken tooth enamel, even diet soda. Sodas can have up to 11 teaspoons of sugar per serving. Diet soft drinks let you skip the sugar, but they may have even more acid in the form of the artificial sweeteners. If you can’t resist a soda, drink through a straw to limit soda’s contact with your teeth.
4. Opening things with your teeth. How often do you open bottle caps or plastic packaging with your teeth just because it’s more convenient? This is a habit that makes most dentists cringe. Using your teeth as tools can cause them to crack or chip. Remember, your teeth should only be used for eating.
5. Breath mints. Your teeth might feel cleaner after you pop a mint in your mouth, but sucking on breath mints is like soaking your teeth in sugar. Always choose sugar-free, and if available, choose mints sweetened with Xylitol, which helps to combat bacteria associated with tooth decay.
6. Grinding Teeth. Teeth grinding, or bruxism, can wear teeth down over time. It is most often caused by stress and sleeping habits. This makes it hard to control. Avoiding hard foods during the day can reduce pain and damage from this habit. Wearing a mouth guard at night can prevent grinding while sleeping.
7. Potato chips and crackers. They taste light, but the texture of potato chips and crackers means that they linger in your mouth. When chip and cracker particles get stuck or become mushy when chewed, they tend to get lodged between teeth, where acid-producing bacteria attack your teeth and put you at risk of tooth decay. And since most people can’t eat just one chip, that means a non-stop period of acid production. Always remember to floss after eating potato chips, crackers or other starchy foods that tend to get stuck in your teeth.
8. Lemonade and sports/energy drinks can damage the protective enamel on your teeth. Citrus fruits and juices — a rich source of vitamin C and other nutrients — are good for you in many ways, but not when it comes to your teeth. Lemonade is a destructive combination of acid and sugar that leads to tooth decay and cavities. Even adding lemon slices to water can be damaging to your teeth because of the acidity it adds.
9. Dark drinks such as coffee, tea, can stain your teeth. Coffee’s dark color and acidity can cause yellowing of the teeth over time. Fortunately, it’s one of the easiest stains to treat with various whitening methods. Talk to your dentist if you’re concerned about discoloration of your teeth.
10. Hard candies such as Jolly Ranchers don’t cling to your teeth as readily as chewy candy, but they have their own downside. Unlike chocolate-based sweets, which are chewed quickly and wash away relatively easily, hard candy dissolves slowly and saturates your mouth for several minutes at a time, giving bacteria more time to produce harmful acid. Choose candy that can be eaten quickly and easily to limit the amount of time sugar is in contact with the teeth, and whenever possible limit sour candies that contain acids, which can intensify the sour flavor, but contribute to dental erosion and cavities. Sugar–free products or those containing Xylitol are always your best choice.
11. Tongue piercings. Tongue piercings may be trendy, but biting down on the metal stud can crack a tooth. Lip piercings pose a similar risk. When metal rubs against the gums, it can cause gum damage that could lead to tooth loss. The mouth is a haven for bacteria, so piercings raise the risk of infections and sores as well as broken teeth.
12. Playing sports with no mouthguard. Whether you play football, baseball, basketball, soccer or any other contact sport, don’t get in the game without a mouthguard. Without it, your teeth could get chipped or even knocked out. Ask your dentists about the different types of mouthguards and which one is best for you.
Prevention is the best medicine for your dental health and a beautiful smile. Always remember to brush and floss your teeth at least twice daily, to avoid cavities and stains in the first place and remember to wear protective guards for grinding and all contact sports.
Good luck with all your resolutions this year, and remember to call your dentist or orthodontist to schedule a consultation for all your specific dental needs.