More Slideshows from eMedicineHealth
10 Mistakes New Parents Make
Chewing on Ice
Chewing ice is a seemingly harmless, unconscious habit but can cause permanent damage to our teeth with small cracks. These cracks can grow larger over time and ultimately cause a tooth to fracture. Opt for chilled water or drinks without ice to resist the urge.
Playing Sports With No Mouth Guard
Going out on the playing field without something to protect your teeth is as important as wearing a helmet and other protective body gear. Your teeth are vulnerable to being knocked out or damaged from high impact sports such as basketball, football, hockey, and soccer. A sports mouth guard helps cushion hard blows to the teeth and jaw.
Despite being an effective tool to lull your baby to sleep, bottles of milk at bedtime increase the risk of early dental decay in your baby's mouth. Prolonged exposure of the sugar in milk works with mouth bacteria to break down tooth enamel and results in rampant decay. There's even a name for it: Baby Bottle Tooth Decay. Find alternative methods to help your baby sleep before bedtime or use water in the bottle instead.
Tongue piercings are a trend that can come at a hefty price in terms of cost to your health. Highly discouraged by dentists, tongue piercings can cause teeth to chip or break requiring dental work. They can also rub against the gums and cause permanent gum recession, which can lead to sensitivity and even tooth loss. Mouth jewelry also encourages more bacteria buildup in the mouth creating an overall unhealthy situation.
Grinding or clenching teeth is called "bruxism" and affects an estimated 30 to 40 million people in the U.S. It usually happens at night, it can be an inherited trait from a parent, and it is often associated with stress in one's life. It puts pressure on teeth, jaw muscles, and the jaw joint (temporomandibular joint or TMJ) and can cause pain. Wearing a custom-made mouth guard at night may help prevent damage and reduce pressure on teeth and surrounding structures. Other methods such as biofeedback and relaxation techniques might help.
Although they are meant for medicinal purposes, cough drops have a high sugar content. Sucking on cough drops all day to soothe the throat also bathes your teeth in sugar. Dental plaque (which contains bacteria) increases in the mouth creating a higher incidence of decay and gum disease. A good alternative is to opt for cough drops that are sugar-free.
Any candy is considered bad for your teeth, but the chewy, sticky kind is particularly harmful. The sticky nature of gummy candy, caramels, or jelly beans allows for them to get stuck in the crevices between or on the teeth and saliva is unable to wash it away. At a minimum, good tooth brushing and flossing after consuming these goodies can help, or just opt for sugar-free alternatives.
High sugar and acid content make for a bad combination for your teeth. Frequent soda drinking will essentially "bathe" your teeth in sugar and can lead to dental decay. Additionally, increased acid exposure works to erode tooth enamel and can lead to teeth sensitivity. If you must drink soda, lessen the frequency and opt for the healthier thirst-quencher, water. Also, minimize the erosion of enamel by rinsing with water after your teeth have been exposed to acidic beverages. Try sipping acidic drinks through a straw to avoid contact with the teeth. Finally, wait at least 30 minutes before brushing with a soft toothbrush after acid exposure to avoid further breakdown and wear of your enamel.
Opening Stuff With Your Teeth
Teeth are meant for eating, speaking properly, and smiling. Anything else can be unhealthy and this most certainly includes using them as tools. Despite the convenience, opening potato chip bags, bobby pins, or even bottle caps with teeth can cause teeth to chip or fracture. Reach for the proper tools for such tasks to save your teeth from unnecessary damage.
Although great after a tough workout, sports drinks are no better than soda in that they contain high amounts of sugar and acids that can do harm to your teeth. To avoid the risk of decay and dental enamel erosion, opt for refreshing, calorie-and-fat-free water.
Fruit juices can be healthy due to their vitamin and mineral content, but this benefit can be diminished by the presence of high amounts of sugar. There is a tendency to underestimate the amount of sugar in naturally sweet fruit juice. For example, apple juice contains approximately as much sugar as the same volume of soda. Diluting fruit juice with water can help reduce sugar content and minimize sugar exposure to your teeth.
Starchy snacks break down and stick to teeth more readily creating a perfect environment for bacterial plaque to quickly form and wreak havoc. Soon after snacking, plan on flossing and brushing to keep the level of plaque down.
Constant snacking throughout the day means food debris and plaque sit on your teeth for a prolonged amount of time. Also, consider snacking on cleansing-type foods such as apples, carrots, and celery that minimize plaque buildup.
Chewing on Pencils
We often unconsciously chew on pencils or bite objects when we are concentrating. These pressures on teeth can cause teeth to chip or fracture. Chewing sugarless gum can be one way to prevent damage and it also stimulates saliva production and helps to cleanse our teeth in the process.
A morning cup of coffee helps many of us start the day. Unfortunately, caffeine can interfere with saliva flow, cause a dry mouth, and lead to tooth decay. Also, adding sugar to your brew increases the risk of tooth decay even more. To counteract the effect of a dry mouth from caffeine, drink water frequently throughout the day.
Tobacco use dries out the mouth and increases the amount of plaque buildup around our teeth. Smokers are more likely to lose teeth compared to nonsmokers due to gum disease. Additionally, tobacco use is a big risk factor for oral cancer. To increase your chances of success in kicking this unhealthy habit, seek help from your doctor.
Drinking Red Wine
Three things contribute to the staining of our teeth when we drink red wine. First, chromogen is the deep color in red wine. Second, acid content in wine etches our teeth and makes it more prone to pick up stain. Finally, tannins in wine help the stain bind to teeth. Ways to counteract the staining are to eat a protein such as cheese with red wine, rinse with water, or chew gum afterwards to stimulate saliva production and neutralize the pH. Fortunately, red wine stain is temporary on teeth.
Drinking White Wine
White wine may seem to be the harmless version of red wine; however, white wine still contains the acid and tannins that help bind stain to teeth. Staining actually comes from foods or drinks you eat after drinking white wine. Also, after drinking anything acidic, avoid brushing your teeth for at least 30 minutes to avoid damaging your teeth further.
Binge eating usually involves intake of large amounts of sugary foods and drinks, which may lead to dental decay. Binge eating may also occur with another eating disorder such as bulimia where the food is purged with vomiting. Because vomit is highly acidic, it can erode and damage teeth over time. Medical care and intervention is important to address these eating disorders.
More Reading on Dental Health