It can be all too easy to fall into bad habits that impact our dental health. Whether the result is accidental damage to your teeth or ongoing oral health problems, there are certain habits that are best avoided in order to protect your teeth and gums.
Here are ten common activities that could be having an adverse effect on your oral health.
1. Grinding Your Teeth
Known as Bruxism, the habit of grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw while asleep can be caused by stress, as well as a sleep disorder called sleep apnoea which affects your breathing. If you often wake up with a sore jaw, neck or head, it’s important to visit your dentist to investigate whether this is caused by grinding or clenching.
Ongoing teeth grinding can cause significant damage, including broken, chipped or fractured teeth which may require dental restorations such as a crown or replacing of the tooth with a dental implant. Over time, excessive teeth grinding can lead to muscle and joint dysfunction and chronic facial pain, so it’s advisable to get this addressed sooner rather than later.
Bruxism may be rectified by wearing a night-time mouthguard or a special snoring device that can be fitted by your National Dental Care Group / DB Dental dentist. If you find yourself grinding your teeth during the day, you can try relaxation exercises such as mindful meditation.
2. Thumb Sucking
If your child is still sucking their thumb when their permanent teeth begin to come through (usually around the age of five or six), this could lead to long-lasting damage to both their teeth and jaw structure. Thumb sucking can cause tooth misalignment, as well as problems with chewing and speaking. Serious misalignment may require orthodontic work when your child is older.
There are a number of ways your dentist can help you address a thumb sucking habit in your child, so talk to your local National Dental Care Group practitioner if you have any concerns.
Aside from causing discolouration and staining of your teeth, smoking can lead to a range of other oral health problems, including:
There are many effective products designed to help you give up smoking, so chat with both your doctor and your dentist about the best way to quit.
4. Failing to Floss
Regular flossing (ideally once a day) helps to remove plaque build-up from hard-to-reach areas in your mouth, as well as dislodging trapped food particles between teeth and helping to support gum health.
If you need information and advice on the correct way to floss, ask your dentist for some tips and make flossing a part of your everyday oral hygiene routine.
5. Taking Medication
While this ‘habit’ is likely to be unavoidable, it’s important to understand how different types of medication can affect your oral health so you can address any problems.
For example, some medications can result in dry mouth. As well as causing you discomfort, a lack of moisture in the mouth can make your teeth more vulnerable to a range of oral health issues, including acid attacks, gum disease, enamel erosion and cavities.
Talk to your pharmacist or doctor about whether your medications can cause dry mouth; if so, you may need a topical supplement or a dry mouth solution.
6. Swallowing Pool Water
The chemicals and chlorine found in chlorinated swimming pools can have a corrosive effect on your tooth enamel, so try to avoid getting pool water in your mouth if you regularly swim in these types of pools.
If you’re concerned about the impact of acidic pool water, talk to your dentist about how you can counteract the damaging effects.
7. Heartburn, Reflux and Vomiting
If you suffer from heartburn or reflux - or find yourself vomiting frequently - you may be exposing your teeth to excessive amounts of digestive acids. This acid can damage your dental enamel, leading to erosion and increased sensitivity.
You should avoid brushing your teeth immediately after vomiting - it’s better to neutralise the acid with some water or bicarbonate of soda solution first. If you’re suffering from ongoing vomiting such as morning sickness, your dentist can recommend supplements that help protect against the damaging effects of digestive acid.
If you experience regular reflux, it’s important to have it checked out by your doctor, as this can be a sign of a more serious health problem.
8. Chewing Ice Cubes
While it may be tempting to snack on ice cubes on a hot summer day, biting or chewing ice cubes can crack, break or chip your teeth, which may result in you requiring a filling or dental crown.
If you can’t resist the cooling effect of ice in your mouth, it’s better to suck the ice cube rather than biting into it. Alternatively, stick to cool drinks and avoid the risk of damaging your teeth from chewing on ice.
9. Overdoing Acidic Foods
Highly acidic foods such as lemons can damage your tooth enamel due to the acids they contain, which can cause erosion. This erosion can create a rough texture on the surface of your teeth, making them appear darker and causing sensitivity in the exposed deeper layers of the tooth.
Heavy erosion from excess acid in your diet can result in the need for tooth replacements, rebuilding or dental veneers.
10. Brushing Too Hard
Brushing your teeth too vigorously or too hard can end up doing more harm than good. Aggressive brushing can lead to a range of oral health issues, including enamel abrasion, sore and irritated gums, and tooth sensitivity.
Choose a toothbrush hardness that’s right for your teeth and gums, and avoid being too heavy-handed when it comes to brushing.
If you’ve fallen into any bad dental habits, the good news is it’s not too late to make positive changes. Book an Appointment with your local National Dental Care / DB Dental practitioner to discuss how to improve your oral health.