5 Habits That Destroy Your Smile
Academy of General Dentistry spokesperson Steven A. Ghareeb, DDS, FAGD, offers advice on how to keep your smile healthy and pretty by avoiding these five bad oral health habits.
1. Not flossing
Brushing your teeth twice a day is important, but many patients don’t realize that flossing at least once a day is just as critical to achieving—and maintaining—a healthy smile. Flossing removes the cavity-causing bacteria left behind from food particles that get stuck between teeth. “Although bleeding and irritation sometimes can occur when you first start flossing, it’s important to keep at it,” says Dr. Ghareeb. “Your gums will toughen up and your oral health will be better for it.”
What is the Right Way to Floss?
Proper flossing removes plaque and food particles in places where a toothbrush cannot easily reach — under the gumline and between your teeth. Because plaque build-up can lead to tooth decay and gum disease, daily flossing is highly recommended.
To receive maximum benefits from flossing, use the following proper technique:
Starting with about 18 inches of floss, wind most of the floss around each middle finger, leaving an inch or two of floss to work with
Holding the floss tautly between your thumbs and index fingers, slide it gently up-and-down between your teeth
Gently curve the floss around the base of each tooth, making sure you go beneath the gumline. Never snap or force the floss, as this may cut or bruise delicate gum tissue
Use clean sections of floss as you move from tooth to tooth
To remove the floss, use the same back-and-forth motion to bring the floss up and away from the teeth
What Type of Floss Should I Use?
There are two types of floss from which to choose:
1. Nylon (or multifilament) floss
2. PTFE (monofilament) floss
Nylon floss is available waxed and unwaxed, and in a variety of flavors. Because this type of floss is composed of many strands of nylon, it may sometimes tear or shred, especially between teeth with tight contact points. While more expensive, single filament (PTFE) floss slides easily between teeth, even those with tight spaces between teeth, and is virtually shred-resistant. When used properly, both types of floss are excellent at removing plaque and debris.
Use about 18″ of floss, leaving an inch or two to work with.
Gently follow the curves of your teeth.
Be sure to clean beneath the gumline, but avoid snapping the floss on the gums
2. Brushing too soon after eating
Consuming acidic foods and beverages, such as sports and energy drinks, citrus fruits, wine, and tomatoes, can erode tooth enamel—the glossy outer layer of the tooth. Brushing your teeth too soon after eating and drinking these items can cause more damage because you are essentially brushing the acid into the teeth, not getting rid of it. Instead, you should rinse your mouth with water after consuming acidic foods and beverages and wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your pearly whites!
3. Not replacing your toothbrush often enough
Not only are old toothbrushes ineffective, but they also harbor harmful bacteria that can cause infections. Toothbrushes should be changed every three to four months. “It’s also important to change your toothbrush after you’ve had a cold,” says Dr. Ghareeb.
4. Excessively bleaching your teeth
Overzealous bleaching can cause your teeth to look unnaturally white and increase tooth sensitivity. Before using an at-home bleaching product, talk to your dentist. “He or she can advise you on proper use of these products as well as which type of bleaching system will provide you with the best results,” says Dr. Ghareeb.
5. Using a hard-bristled toothbrush
A hard-bristled toothbrush coupled with an aggressive brushing technique can cause irreversible damage to your gums. Use a soft toothbrush and gently brush your teeth at a 45-degree angle, in a circular motion. Using a back-and-forth, sawing motion causes the gums to recede, and can expose the root of the tooth, making teeth extremely sensitive.
6. Chewing on ice
Some people chew on ice cubes to quench thirst or relieve stress. You might think frozen water wouldn’t pose any threats, since it’s sugarless and natural, but chomping on the hard substance can actually create tiny fissures in tooth enamel. Gradually, the small cracks widen and cause dental issues later in life. Not only can ice break teeth, but the habit has been known to muck up expensive dental work, such as fillings, braces and crowns. If the mindless pastime hurts the soft issue inside your tooth, you may be more susceptible to regular toothaches. Instead, chew some sugarless gum.
7. Grinding teeth
Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, can shave down your teeth. Since most people do it while they’re sleeping, they aren’t aware it happens. However, a sore jaw or a constant headache could be a key indicator that you’re clanking your teeth at night. More often than not, it is brought on by stress and poor sleeping habits. Chronic grinding of teeth can trigger loosening and fracturing. You might want to consider a mouth guard at night to prevent damage from this bad habit.
8. Gummy Candy
These high-fructose corn syrup clumps stick onto your teeth long after the moment you eat them. As a result, the sugars and acids wear away at dental enamel, which is why they’re famous for causing cavities. Instead of snacking on your Halloween treasures throughout the day, eat them during one meal, when your mouth produces more saliva that helps wash down the gelatin. Steer clear of sour candies especially, since their acidity levels approach that of battery acid. No joke.
9. Pencil biting
Whether you’re getting your butt kicked by a test or pondering over last-minute notes before a meeting, you might find yourself chewing down on pens and pencils. Similar to crunching on ice, pencil biting can crack or chip teeth. If you catch yourself or your kid reverting to this dental wrecker, grab a pack of sugar-free gum with xylitol to quench your chewing desire. This healthy alternative will boost saliva production and strengthen teeth.
10. Contact sports without a mouth guard
Hockey, football, rugby – whichever high-collision sport your kids are into, make sure they wear a mouth guard. This molded plastic protects the upper row of pearly whites during impact, absorbing the blow and saving them from chips or getting knocked out. They’re inexpensive and can be found at most sporting good stores. Many are customizable to fit your bite.