How did you brush your teeth this morning? Were you in a hurry before dashing off to work or school? Did you scrub extra hard so you could finish faster?
This is just one of many hazardous dental habits most people have but aren’t aware of. The everyday habits in this list are damaging our health, giving us bad breath, and even putting us at risk of serious disease.
Do you have any of these habits? Read on for the dental health habits to break right now.
If you’re brushing but not flossing, you’re only doing half of the job. Flossing is absolutely necessary to having a beautiful smile as you age, preventing cavities, and even a healthy heart.
Imagine painting a picket fence. You wouldn’t paint the front and the back and leave the insides of the wood panels open to the elements, right? In this way, neglecting to floss leaves those surfaces exposed to cavities and tooth decay.
Don’t be fooled by the fancy Listerine commercials that show little Listerine men peeling away plaque with ice picks. No amount of rinsing mouthwash can replace flossing. Why? Just as rinsing with a liquid will never replace the abrasive act of brushing, you can’t remove sticky plaque from in between your teeth unless you physically scrape it off with floss.
Brushing Too Hard
When you’re in a rush, it’s easy to use improper brushing technique. Scrubbing harder doesn’t get your teeth cleaner faster! Hold your toothbrush at a slight angle against your teeth and brush with small circular motions or vibratory motions. Avoid vigorous or harsh scrubbing, which can damage tooth structure.
Not Seeing Your Dentist Every 6 Months
Seeing your dentist regularly is critical to maintaining good health, keeping your teeth healthy and white, prevention of disease, and avoiding costly and painful treatments down the road.
Do you drink coffee, tea, or smoke? At a teeth cleaning, your hygienist can remove staining to your teeth from these staining activities.
Seeing your dentist regularly will allow for early detection of conditions such as gum disease and oral cancer. Advanced gum disease, which affects 4 to 12% of adults, is like a cancer. In its earliest form, gingivitis, it is curable. After that, it’s only possible to achieve remission.
Even if you floss and brush regularly, there are some spots you’re going to miss, and regular teeth cleanings can make sure that this tartar gets removed and doesn’t cause cavities and tooth decay. Calculus forms on the teeth over time, whether or not you brush and floss, and regular teeth cleanings can remove it.
Being Okay With Hiding Your Smile
Too many people smile without showing their teeth, ashamed of how they look. Listen to your body – if you have toothaches, bleeding of the gums, bad breath, or other symptoms – see your dentist and start flossing daily and brushing after meals. Being able to smile has tremendously positive psychological impact, which can affect everything from your ability to get promoted to feeling attractive.
Eating the Wrong Foods for Your Teeth
Some of my patients are shocked when they find a small square of dark chocolate in their goody bag of floss and toothpaste that they get from the hygienist. Simply avoiding candy isn’t enough to protect your teeth. Not all “candy” is bad for your teeth and there are several foods disguised as health foods that can wreck havoc on your teeth.
Ignoring the Blood When You Floss or Brush
If you bleed when you floss or brush, you’re one of the 75% of people in the US who have at one point experienced gum disease. Don’t let the blood scare you away – all it means is that your gums are unhappy because plaque has built up.
The best thing you can do is floss and brush twice per day until it goes away and your gums are happy again. In very rare cases, bleeding gums can indicate a more serious condition, such as immune suppression or nutritional deficiencies. See your dentist or doctor if bleeding persists despite brushing and flossing.
Brushing After Eating Acidic Foods
You might think it’s a good idea to brush away the erosive acid from your teeth after consuming fruit juice or soda, but this is actually damaging to the teeth. The combination of the acid along with the abrasive act of brushing can cause erosion of the enamel, which can lead to cavities. Instead of brushing, opt to swish with water instead or chew gum, which increases saliva production, thereby neutralizing the acid and making it safe to brush.
Smokeless tobacco causes bad breath, staining of the teeth, buildup of plaque and tartar, and dramatically increases your risk of oral cancer. Contrary to popular belief, smokeless tobacco is not safer than smoking cigarettes.
Smokeless tobacco is also a leading cause of gum recession, which is when gum tissue pulls away from the teeth, exposing more of the tooth and leaving it more sensitive to hot and cold and painful to eat and drink.
For more information on how to quit, click here.
Not Wearing a Night Guard
Wearing a night guard can help to relax your jaw while you sleep and minimize the effects of bruxism, or grinding. Most people grind their teeth to some degree while they sleep, and the scariest part is, it’s difficult to know if you’re doing it since you’re asleep when it happens!
Grinding results in jaw pain and a flattening of the teeth until they’re all one length. Wearing away your teeth like this can also make them sensitive. You spend one third of your life sleeping – why not protect your teeth during this time so they still look lovely as you get older?
Not Protecting Your Teeth When Playing Sports
The benefits of wearing a mouthguard while playing sports are many. I can’t tell you how many patients I see come into the office because they cracked or chipped or knocked out a tooth playing sports.
There are also studies that show that wearing a mouthguard while working out can enhance performance. A mouthguard relaxes the jaw which in turn enhances anaerobic performance, like lifting weights or playing tennis.
Mark Burhenne DDS