Teeth are essential players in digestion, central to our appearance, and even help us form our words properly. Enamel, the hardest substance in our bodies, provides a tough outer layer made of intricate crystal rods. And a solid foundation of bone and gum surround the teeth and hold them firmly in place. As resilient as teeth are, our habits can compromise our smile and leave us with damage that’s challenging to repair.
Here are 5 habits that you need to be careful to avoid:
1. Ice Chewing
We’ve all crunched on ice on a hot summer day. But chewing on a chunk of ice puts tremendous strain on the crystal structure of your teeth. The combination of hardness and extreme temperature stress enamel in a way few things do. Microfractures develop in the enamel, and they may eventually expand to form deeper cracks. Teeth with large fillings are especially susceptible, and large pieces of tooth may eventually break away. In some cases, a tooth may split in half and be impossible to save.
SOLUTION: Use ice for drinks, not as a crunchy treat.
2. Soda and Sports Drinks
You probably know that soda is loaded with sugar. A typical can delivers 9 teaspoons on average, and sugar provides an ideal energy source for the bacteria that cause cavities. But did you know many sports drinks hold just as much and often get consumed in larger quantities? To top it off, many carbonated beverages contain different types of acid that erode the mineral in your teeth. Even diet sodas can dramatically change the acidity of your mouth and weaken the surface of the teeth.
SOLUTION: Reach for cold water with a splash of lemon and use sports drinks only with strenuous activities.
3. Teeth Grinding
Stress finds many ways to express itself and gnashing of the teeth is just one of them. Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, slowly thins away enamel, chips fillings and porcelain, and stresses the gums. Worn teeth often look like sandpaper has been run across the biting surface, and replacing missing enamel often involves extensive, full-mouth dental treatment.
SOLUTION: Consider a custom-fit nightguard to save your teeth, jaw, and gums from major problems.
4. Sports without Mouthguards
An elbow to the chops happens in a split second, but the damage can be life-changing. Many athletic activities carry the risk of tooth fracture, and most participants don’t consider mouth protection. Do you know the #1 sport for mouth injuries? Basketball! Few players wear a mouthguard, which leads to unnecessary danger. Any close contact sport carries risk worth eliminating.
SOLUTION: Consider a custom athletic guard designed for your particular activity level. Multiple layers of protection can be added for maximum safety.
5. Chewing Tobacco
While smoking has declined in recent years, the use of snuff has continued to climb over the past 15 years. Nearly 50,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with oral cancer every year, and many more will suffer from adverse effects of this highly addictive habit. Gum recession, bad breath, and tooth decay are just a few of the problems resulting from the nearly 3000 chemicals found in chewing tobacco.
SOLUTION: If you’re not a user, don’t start. If you’re struggling with quitting, ask us about ideas to support your effort. It’s worth it.
Most people want to enjoy a lifetime with their own teeth, but just one bad habit can undermine the best intentions. Fortunately, the Center for Advanced Dental Medicine team has solutions to lower many risks, and we’re here to provide support for any lifestyle changes you’d like to make.