Dr Rachel Hall Kenmore dentist, shares her expertise and the latest advice on giving your teeth the love and care they need and will explain where you could be going wrong with these 20 mistakes that ruin your teeth.
Taking care of your teeth shouldn’t be that difficult after all it isn’t rocket science. Yet it’s all too easy to develop habits that could cause a toothache in the long run.
Multitasking while you brush
Every minute in the morning feels precious, so it’s tempting to brush your teeth in the shower or while scrolling through your social media feed. However, this means you aren’t concentrating enough to ensure you are doing a good job. Cleaning your teeth is best done in front of a mirror, over the sink; you can be sure to hit all the surfaces of your teeth, and you’ll do a more thorough job when you’re not distracted.
Over-cleaning your toothbrush
Thinking about running your brush through the dishwasher or zapping it in the microwave to disinfect it? Think again: While we’ve all seen those stories about toothbrushes harbouring gross bacteria, there’s no evidence that anyone has ever gotten sick from their own toothbrush. Just give your brush a good rinse with regular old tap water, let it air-dry, and store it upright where it’s not touching anyone else’s brush. More drastic cleaning measures may damage your brush, which defeats its purpose.
Using social media as your dentist
The web is full of weird and (seemingly) wonderful DIY dental tips that can hurt much more than they’ll help. Read our lips: Don’t even go there. I’ve heard of people who go on Google and find ways to whiten their teeth there–by swishing with straight peroxide, for example–which are not good for their teeth. When it comes to tooth whitening and dental care its best to use approved products that have been tested.
There have been several recent scares about dental x-rays, including a 2012 study published in the journal Cancer reporting a possible link between dental x-rays and benign brain tumours. However, the American Cancer Society notes that the study does not establish that x-rays actually cause the tumours and that some people in the study had x-rays years ago when radiation exposure from dental x-rays was much higher.
X-rays are important because not all conditions can be identified with a visual exam. For example, there might be cavities between the teeth, or there might be a cyst or other pathology in the jaw. If you’re concerned about radiation, talk to your dentist about ways to minimize the number of x-rays you get.
Storing your wet toothbrush in a travel case
It’s important to stow your brush somewhere sanitary before you tuck it into your luggage for a trip–and equally important to set it free once you unpack. Bacteria thrive in moist environments and while you should use a cover or case during transport, make sure you take your toothbrush out and allow it to air dry when you reach your destination. No stand-up holder in your hotel room? If you’ve got a cup for drinking water, that’ll do just fine.
Hanging on to that tongue or lip piercing
Self-expression is well and good, but when it takes the form of a tongue barbell or lip ring, it can come at a high price. I’ve treated patients who fractured or chipped their teeth from biting on their piercings. I’ve also had patients with gum recession and other soft-tissue injuries from their piercing rubbing against tender areas of the mouth. Had your piercing for ages with no trouble, you say? Just wait: Studies have shown that your risk of dental problems from tongue and lip piercings gets worse the longer you have them.
Drinking apple cider vinegar
According to assorted Hollywood celebrities and natural health experts, drinking unfiltered apple-cider vinegar can have near-miraculous effects on your insides. Research doesn’t support those claims, but dentists are sure of one thing: The acetic acid in the vinegar is terrible for your tooth enamel. When it comes downing ACV (as proponents call it), even a good rinse with water afterwards might not mitigate potential damage. The same applies to lemon water.
Ditching your retainer
If you once had braces, whether as a teen or as an adult, it’s smart to keep wearing your retainer for as long as your orthodontist recommends–which may mean several nights a week, forever. A patient will have perfect teeth from braces and then they won’t wear a retainer at night and their teeth will shift and they’ll be unhappy all over again.
Brushing right after your morning OJ
Like to start your day with a glass of orange juice–or oh-so-trendy lemon water? Brushing right afterwards can wear away your enamel. The acidic environment weakens the teeth enamel and erosion can occur during this vulnerable period, so neutralize your mouth first by drinking water, or rinsing with a baking soda solution–or just waiting 30 minutes. The same goes for vomiting, since that’s acidic, too. (Gross but true!) If you’ve thrown up, be sure to rinse before scrubbing out your mouth.
Ignoring your daily (or nightly) grind
While mild clenching your teeth or grinding your jaw–might not seem like a big deal, severe cases can lead to everything from chipped, split and worn teeth to headaches, jaw trouble, and even changes in facial appearance. It’s hard to know if you grind your teeth at night if a partner doesn’t tip you off, of course, but if you experience tell-tale signs such as jaw soreness or a dull, constant headache, make haste to the dentist; he or she can fit you with a device to protect you from additional damage.
You already know smoking is bad for your lungs and heart. In case you need another reason to quit smoking: Besides the bad breath and stained teeth, smoking is one of the most significant risk factors associated with the development of gum disease and the gum recession, bone loss, and tooth loss that come with it. Worse yet, smoking can also lower your chances for successful treatment if you’ve already got gum disease since nicotine compromises your body’s ability to fight infection.
Reaching for a toothpick
While those old-school sticks can certainly come in handy when food gets stuck between your teeth at a restaurant on date night, the truth is that wooden toothpicks are poor substitutes for dental floss: They can splinter and break, and using them too aggressively can cause damage to sensitive gum tissue. Take a pick if you’re in dire need, but know that they’re far better suited to an hors-d’oeuvres tray than they are to your mouth.
Skipping dentist appointments
Hate sitting in the dentist’s chair? The very best trick for short-circuiting anxiety about going to the dentist is–surprise–going to the dentist. Most patients who don’t like to come in feeling that way because when they do, they need a lot of work. If you’re in every three to six months for your hygiene appointments and have regular check-ups, you’re less likely to run into problems.
Going overboard with whitening products
This one should be a no-brainer: Over whitening teeth can lead to weakened enamel and teeth sensitivity. Ironically, enamel loss exposes the layer of dentine beneath it, making your teeth look yellowy rather than pearly. Little is known about the long-term effects of whitening, but the bottom line is that you should consult your dentist–that is, the professional who knows your teeth and is best equipped to suggest an in-office treatment or over-the-counter product that’s right for you–and use the whitener they recommend in moderation.
Not drinking enough water
If you are dehydrated your mouth becomes dry which makes it more acidic which will dissolve tooth enamel. Dry mouth means you have less saliva. Saliva is needed to protect your teeth from a dental disease so make sure you keep well hydrated. Swishing with and drinking water is also an important way to rinse accumulated sugars and acids from your teeth.
Skimping on calcium and vitamin D
Minerals and vitamins are building blocks for bones and teeth, of course, but they are also key to maintaining their strength and density as we age–and these two are bones’ and teeth’s strongest allies. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, adult women need 1,000-1,200 milligrams of calcium and 400-1,000 IU (international units) of vitamin D per day from food, sunlight (for vitamin D) and supplements. Consult your GP on your nutrient needs and be sure your teeth and bones are getting the support they need.
Getting addicted to juicing
Everyone loves juicing these days, whether it’s homemade juice or a fancy bottled variety. But while they might be packed with vitamins and other nutrients, fresh juices also bathe your mouth in everything from corrosive acids (in ingredients like lemon juice) to megadoses of sugar (the high levels of fructose in many green juices aren’t doing your teeth any favours). If you can’t bid farewell to your juicy health promises, do your best to minimise their damage to your choppers: rinse with water after acidic juices, and be sure to brush your teeth after those fruity sugar bombs.
Reaching for the wrong mouth rinse
There are as many ways to wash out your mouth, as there are types of bacteria to have in your mouth. Most rinses, for example, will merely mask bad breath and leave you with a pleasant taste in your mouth. Therapeutic rinses with ingredients like antimicrobial agents, on the other hand, can actually help reduce gingivitis, cavities, plaque, and bad breath.
Using a brush that’s too hard
Like wooden toothpicks, hard-bristled brushes are tough-looking instruments that tend to cause more problems than they solve. Effective as they might seem, harder bristles can erode your enamel, and you might as well be using sandpaper! I only recommend soft or extra-soft toothbrushes. Research indicates that your gums will suffer from tough brushes as well: A 2011 study published in the Journal of Periodontology found that while hard-bristled toothbrushes removed plaque, they were also more likely than softer brushes to cause gingivitis and tissue damage.
Drinking soft drink – even the diet stuff
Isn’t it enough to kick sugar to the curb and indulge in a soft drink without it? You should know that all acidic drinks–regular soft drinks, diet ones, even sports drinks, –can cause tooth erosion.
If you are unsure how best to care for your teeth and gums or it’s been 6 months or more since your last dental check or hygiene visit then call us to make your appointment for a full mouth health assessment. We will inform you and show you exactly what is going on in your mouth and how best to manage or treat any conditions you may have and prevent you having major problems down the track.