Brushing your teeth, flossing and seeing the dentist regularly: we all know the pillars of good dental hygiene. But knowing them and maintaining them are two different things. Nearly 50% of people over age 30 show signs of gum disease, and 26% of adults have untreated cavities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It’s not uncommon to have problems with your teeth or gums, and dentists say that lifestyle factors may be to blame for some of your oral health problems. In fact, common behaviors can negate the benefits of good oral hygiene — and you’re probably guilty of some of them.
Below, we spoke with dentists about the tooth-damaging habits and behaviors they advise against and would never do themselves:
1. They don’t chew ice.
“The first thing that came to mind was chewing ice,” said Dr. Natalie Peterson, associate clinical professor of dentistry at the University of Minnesota.
“A lot of people don’t think about it, but they chew the ice in their drink and just don’t think about the damage it can cause,” she said.
Ice can break your teeth because not only is it hard, it’s also cold, Peterson noted. This can be especially damaging for people with fillings. “The thought of chewing ice gives me the chills,” she said.
2. They don’t bite their nails.
Nail biting can lead to dental problems, according to Dr. Jennifer Soncini, clinical associate professor of pediatric dentistry at Boston University. Additionally, nail biting is often a habit, which means your teeth have to deal with this action repeatedly.
Biting your nails wears away the enamel on the edges of your teeth, Soncini explained. Enamel plays many important roles: it helps protect your teeth from cavities, erosion, infections, and sensitivity to cold, hot, or sweet foods.
3. They don’t open bags or bottles with their teeth.
Using your teeth to open a bag of chips or a bottle of water may seem harmless, but dentists say that’s not the case.
“Teeth are strong and very durable, but they are not meant for opening bottle caps, ripping open packages, or chewing hard objects,” Dr. Jarrett Manning, a cosmetic and dental dentist, told HuffPost. implants and owner of JLM Dental Studios in Georgia. by email.
This puts unnecessary pressure on your teeth. “Using your teeth in this way can result in pain, broken or cracked teeth, root canals or even teeth that need to be extracted,” Manning added.
4. They avoid eating gummy candies.
Sticky candies like gummy worms, gummy bears, and peach rounds are all products that dentists avoid. For what? They can get stuck in the grooves of your teeth and between your teeth, which can cause cavities, Soncini said. They can also squeeze out toppings.
Beyond gummy candies, Peterson said she specifically avoids sour candy.
“I kind of view this as the trifecta of evil. They’re sticky, very sweet and very acidic – that’s why they taste sour,” Peterson said.
5. They do not consume excessive amounts of alcohol.
It’s well known that drinking too much alcohol isn’t good for your liver health, your risk of cancer, or the quality of your sleep. Manning said excessive alcohol consumption is also bad for teeth.
“Alcohol causes dry mouth and decreases saliva production, and because the role of saliva is to help clean the mouth, protect teeth, and neutralize acids, decreased saliva can increase the risk of decay,” Manning said.
6. They don’t use a toothbrush with too hard bristles.
Peterson said she recommends soft-bristled toothbrushes for several reasons.
Toothbrushes with hard and medium bristles “can be very abrasive on your gums, so they can cause more recession, and it’s difficult to remedy recession once it has occurred,” she said. she explains. Additionally, toothbrushes with hard or medium bristles can be abrasive to your teeth in general, she said.
7. They don’t smoke.
“I would not smoke or use tobacco,” Manning said. “Not only can smoking cause serious health problems, it can also cause serious oral health problems, tooth discoloration, and in extreme cases, oral cancer. »
Quitting smoking is difficult, but there are resources to help you achieve this goal. If you don’t smoke, don’t start for the sake of your oral health and beyond.
8. They don’t neglect their daily dental hygiene.
This probably won’t come as a surprise, but dentists say skipping brushing and flossing is a major no-no.
“Daily flossing along with brushing is key to fighting gum disease,” Manning said.
Additionally, Soncini said it’s very important to brush your teeth at night.
“Never, ever go to sleep without brushing your teeth,” Soncini explained. “You can go a whole day without brushing your teeth, but if you don’t brush your teeth before you go to bed, it’s the worst thing you can do to your mouth.”
Going to bed with a clean mouth can prevent bacteria from growing overnight, Soncini said.
9. They don’t miss dentist appointments.
“I would never ignore my regular dental checkups either,” Manning said. “Routine dental checkups are crucial to maintaining oral health and detecting dental problems early. »
When it comes to how often you should see your dentist for routine checkups, it depends on your personal dental history and other issues.
“Regular patient checkups should be somewhat tailored to each patient, their risk factors and their overall dental health,” Peterson said.
“Some people may only need to come once a year, they may be in pretty good health; a lot of people, twice a year, it’s a good idea; and some people who have risk factors or dental issues may need to come in three to four times a year,” Peterson continued.
Talk to your dentist and dental hygienist to determine the best frequency for you.