It’s easy to get lazy when it comes to following an at-home dental hygiene routine, or when it comes to avoiding foods and drinks that you know are bad for your teeth and gums. But, over time, these tendencies could ruin your smile.
Which habits are most liable to put your oral health at risk?
Not Brushing Enough…Or Brushing Too Hard
Do you ever find yourself too tired at night to brush your teeth before bed? Or maybe you don’t think that brushing your teeth twice a day is actually necessary. The truth, though, is that experts recommend brushing at least twice a day for two minutes at a time. This is one of the most important habits to prevent problems.
But brushing incorrectly could also wreck your teeth. If you think that brushing harder will get the job done better, think again. Brushing too aggressively or with a toothbrush that’s too hard could not only irritate your gums but also damage your teeth.
What to do instead: Brush your teeth and gums gently using a soft toothbrush or an electric toothbrush that will do most of the work for you.
Chewing on Non-Food Items
Chewing on non-food items, like your pen cap or pencil, or even your fingernails, could lead to cracked or chipped teeth. You might chew on items without even realizing it while you’re deeply focused on studying or working, but if you find yourself doing it, it’s best to switch to a healthy alternative.
What to do instead: Experts recommend reaching for some sugar-free gum when you want to chew on something. Bonus: chewing on gum will increase saliva flow, helping to clean your mouth while protecting your enamel against acid.
Using Your Teeth as Tools
If you’re using your teeth for anything other than chewing food, you might be doing damage to your pearly whites. According to experts, it’s best to avoid doing things like opening plastic packaging or bottle caps with your mouth. Otherwise, your teeth might chip or crack in the process.
What to do instead: Keep helpful tools, such as bottle openers and a small pair of scissors, in a handy location so you won’t be tempted to use your teeth to get things open.
Ice: A pretty shocking fact about ice is that you could end up cracking or chipping your teeth by chewing on it. Frozen water might appear harmless, but experts recommend thinking twice before grabbing a cube to munch on.
Cough Drops: If you need to have a cough drop because you aren’t feeling well, that’s totally fine. Just keep in mind that most contain a lot of sugar, so brushing afterwards is recommended.
Candy: Like sugary cough drops, hard candies and gummies contain sugar that will react with any plaque on your teeth. The sugar can then be converted into acid that destroys enamel and leads to cavities.
Potato Chips: We’re sure you can’t eat just one (we can’t either), but potato chips are actually quite bad for your teeth. Blame the bacteria found in plaque, as it will break starchy foods down into acid, which will then wreak havoc on your teeth. Flossing after indulging in starchy foods like chips could help remove any particles that got stuck in between your teeth before they can do more harm.
Lemons: The acidity of lemons could corrode tooth enamel. So if you repeatedly chew on lemons or suck on them to get their juice, the texture of your teeth could become rough over time.
In addition to these foods, there are also several beverages that, when consumed too often, could damage your teeth. These include:
Soda: Like candy, soda could expose your teeth to way too much sugar. But soda also has citric acid and phosphoric acid, which both damage enamel. And if you think you’re safe with diet soda because they don’t contain sugar, the bad news is that these sodas might contain greater amounts of acid, thanks to their artificial sweeteners. Wow!
Fruit Juice: Sure, fruit juice is natural and packed with nutrients, but consider checking the label for sugar content first, as your favorite juice might be just as bad as soda. Stick with juices that don’t have any added sugar, or try diluting your juice by adding a bit of water to it.
Sports Drinks: After working out, you might like reaching for a sports drink to rehydrate your body, but these are often high in sugar, allowing acid to attack the teeth and cause decay over time. Sticking with pure water is the preferred way to keep your body hydrated.
Wine: There are acids in red and white wine that could damage enamel, as well as lead to rough areas on your teeth that could make them more susceptible to unsightly stains. To counter stains, you can try using a whitening toothpaste. Or you can even try rinsing your mouth with water right after having wine in an effort to prevent stains.
Grinding, Smoking, and Sports, Oh My!
Grinding and clenching your teeth: You might not realize that you’re doing it, but grinding or clenching your teeth could wear them down. Your dentist will be able to tell if you’re grinding your teeth, and she’ll also be able to provide solutions that will help you stop the damage.
Smoking: In addition to staining your teeth, smoking might even cause them to fall out! Ditching those cigarettes will help reduce your risk of gum disease, cancer, and other serious oral health issues.
Playing sports without protecting your mouth: Contact sports, such as hockey and football, could put your teeth at risk, particularly when you play without protecting your mouth. Simply wearing a mouthguard every time you play will help defend your chompers from getting chipped or—even worse—getting knocked out!
The Worst Habit: Not Seeing Your Dentist
It’s tough to avoid all of the habits above all the time, but seeing your dentist at least once a year could help you keep your teeth in tiptop shape. Your dentist has the tools necessary to thoroughly clean your teeth, as well as look for any signs of damage that requires treatment to halt its progression. So be sure to book your appointments, and make your visits more affordable with the help of the right Spirit dental plan.
If you exhibit some of the habits above, don’t be too hard on yourself. After all, nobody’s perfect. Thankfully, there are several alternatives so you can establish healthier habits that will keep your smile bright and beautiful.
Underwritten by Ameritas Life Insurance Corp. | PO Box 82520 | Lincoln, NE 68501-2520
This highlight is not a certificate of insurance or guarantee of coverage. Plan designs may not be available in all areas and are subject to individual state regulations. Premium rates may change upon renewal. This policy is renewable at the option of the insured.
This information is provided by Ameritas Life Insurance Corp. (Ameritas Life). Individual dental, vision and hearing care products (Indiv. 9000 Rev. 02-19), and vision policy form (Indiv. 9000 Rev. 02-19 V, dates may vary by state) are issued by Ameritas Life. Some plan designs are not available in all areas. This piece is not for use in New Mexico. In Texas, our dental network and plans are referred to as the Ameritas Dental Network. Some states require that producers be appointed with Ameritas Life before soliciting its products.