7 Bad Dental Habits That Are Hurting Your Teeth
No doubt you've heard the saying, "It's the little things…" Well, when it comes to dental health, that's one of the wisest statements you'll ever hear. You see, it truly is the little things, done over and over again, that often have the strongest impact on oral health. In fact, it takes a series of deliberate and repeated positive actions to maintain an optimal oral environment in which your teeth and gums can flourish. By the same token, when those crucial practices are ignored – or worse yet, replaced with decidedly unhealthy ones – your tooth and gum health suffer.
Here are seven little habits you may be following every day that are harming your teeth and could be gradually destroying your smile:
1. Snacking between meals without brushing
This little habit is one of the worst offenders when it comes to developing cavities. Many people figure that brushing after meals – or even brushing twice a day – is sufficient. But, every time we eat, acids and food particles are deposited on and around our teeth and gums and begin interacting almost immediately with the bacteria in our mouths to start breaking down our tooth enamel. If you must snack, brush your teeth afterward, even if you use plain water. If that's impossible, thoroughly rinse your mouth with water, swirling it over your teeth.
2. Brushing incorrectly
Haphazard brushing may be almost as bad as not brushing. A thorough brushing should take at least two minutes. Use a soft toothbrush to protect the tooth enamel and gently clean under the gum line, where bacteria hide. Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle, tilting it upward to brush the top teeth and gum line and downward to brush the bottom ones. Brush gently, using small, circular motions, and be sure to brush all exposed tooth surfaces.
3. Neglecting to floss
Ending the day without flossing is one of the worst insults you can perpetrate on your teeth. Flossing is just as important to dental health as brushing, and you need to do both every day. Flossing not only removes plaque; it also dislodges food particles before they can decompose and create real problems. If you can, floss after every meal or snack. Carry floss picks with you. If you have a fixed bridge, use a floss threader.
4. Going to bed without brushing
If it's bad to skip brushing during the day, it's even worse to do it overnight. During the night, saliva production diminishes, so the already-minor cleansing action of saliva is decreased still further, setting up the ideal environment for tooth decay. If you skip both flossing and brushing at bedtime – and do it often – you're really asking for trouble!
5. Using a "germy" toothbrush
If you never disinfect your toothbrush, you introduce more bacteria into your mouth every time you brush. To avoid this problem, rinse or soak your toothbrush in straight 3% hydrogen peroxide.
6. Drinking sugary soft drinks
Drinking sugary sodas, sports or energy drinks, and even sweetened fruit juices and fruit drinks can mount a real assault on your teeth. And carbonated sweetened drinks are even worse. Sweetened drinks often have little to no nutritional value. If you must drink them, keep them to a minimum – and always rinse your mouth with plain water afterward.
7. Eating chewy foods that stick to your teeth
Sticky, chewy foods like taffy and gummy-type candies – and even regular sweetened chewing gum – can wreak havoc with your dental health. Because they stick fast to your teeth, they often cause trouble more quickly than many other foods. Taffy and gum can also pull out fillings and loosen crowns.
To avoid these problems, avoid the seven unhealthy dental practices mentioned above. In addition, eat a nutritious diet, keep sweets to a minimum, and visit your dentist twice a year for a checkup and cleaning. If you take good care of your pearly whites, they will take good care of you!