Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in our body. In fact, it is even stronger than bone! Despite this, there are several everyday lifestyle habits that can unknowingly harm and destroy this white outer shield of our teeth. Consequently, teeth can become painful, damaged and sensitive, which may lead to time-consuming and expensive interventions by your dental team. The following are several common habits that may cause more harm than good:
Over-consumption of Acidic Foods and Drinks
Aspects of our diet can have long-lasting adverse effects on our enamel. Citrus fruits and juices, carbonated water, soft drinks, vinegar, and alcohol can, over time, wear away the surface of our teeth. This acidic erosion causes enamel to become thin, yellow-ish in colour, and may ultimately lead to temperature sensitivity and pain.
Grinding and Clenching Teeth
Juggling our daily responsibilities may cause some people to involuntarily release stress through habitual bruxism (teeth-grinding) and/or jaw clenching. Often times, these habits occur subconsciously during the night-time and may reveal themselves through symptoms of jaw and ear pain, facial muscle tenderness, tension headaches, and ‘sore teeth’. Your dentist may also see irreversible signs of wear to your teeth and gums, which can impact the function and aesthetics of your mouth and smile.
Oral Hygiene Technique
Surprisingly, our oral health routine may also be impacting the health of our teeth. Chronically brushing too aggressively (especially with a hard-bristled toothbrush) can irritate our gums, contributing to gum recession and the potential for sensitivity and cavities on the newly exposed portion of our teeth. In addition, our gums (gingiva) can also be harmed by excessively forceful flossing and the improper use of wooden toothpicks.
Using our Teeth as Tools
It may seem convenient or harmless to use our teeth to rip a clothing tag, break open a sunflower seed shell, crunch on ice cubes, bite off a hangnail, or even open a bottle cap, but in reality, these bad habits can lead to numerous consequences. From small chips to large cracks, broken fillings to jaw dysfunction, your dentist has seen the negative effects these seemingly innocent habits can have on your mouth and your wallet.
Snacking and Sugar/Carbohydrate Consumption
Constant grazing or sipping throughout the day allows cavity-causing bacteria to feast on the sugars and residual food on our teeth, causing them to produce acid that attacks the enamel. Essentially, by not giving our saliva time to neutralize these ‘acid attacks’, the risk of cavity formation and sensitivity increases significantly.
Helpful Reminders and Solutions
- If you are consuming acidic or sugary foods and drinks throughout the day, try drinking a glass of water afterwards, brushing your teeth 20 minutes after their consumption, drinking through a straw, and reducing the frequency of snacking.
- See your dentist if you are experiencing jaw pain or believe you are grinding or clenching. Lifestyle modifications, nightguards, and referrals to other health care professionals, such as physiotherapists, may help to alleviate and eliminate symptoms, and prevent long-term consequences.
- Speak with your hygienist regarding proper brushing and flossing techniques. Always use a soft (or extra-soft) toothbrush, try to avoid abrasive toothpastes, and think of ‘massaging’ the teeth and gums versus ‘scrubbing’.
- Break those bad habits such as nail biting, and using teeth as nutcrackers and bottle openers.
- Make dental/hygiene appointments and choosing a healthy diet part of your regular routine to optimize your oral health and maintain that beautiful smile!
Dr. Jennifer Holody