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Soda, grinding and… brushing? The worst things you’re doing to your teeth

Your eyes aren’t the window into your soul. Your smile is. That means you need to keep it in perfect running order. It’s easier than you think, though, if you just avoid these surprising dental pitfalls.

Think you’re doing everything you can for healthy, beautiful teeth? Think again. Three dentistry experts shared their opinions on some of the worst things you can do to your teeth.

Slurping that soda

This seems pretty obvious, yet few of us have curbed our addiction to pop. Ladies, the sugar is bad for your teeth, sure. But doctors at the University of Rochester have found that the phosphoric and citric acids in carbonated sodas may be even worse than sugar. It turns out these acids eat away at tooth enamel.

Crunching on ice

It’s nice to crunch away on your leftover ice while sitting through a boring movie or melting under summer sun. However, if you want to keep your teeth, knock it off. Dr. Shawn Adibi from the University of Texas School of Dentistry warned against it, saying it could do serious damage to your teeth. “Crunching ice may fracture weak areas of your teeth or existing restorations,” Adibi warned. In other words: It’s all fun and games until someone loses a tooth. (Don’t let it be you!)

Eating all that delicious fruit

We all assume we’re doing our body good when munching away on fruit, but the same can’t be said for our teeth.

According to Adibi, you should take it easy on your fruit intake. He says you should take it especially easy on drinking citrus drinks, and don’t spend too much time savoring them. Continually “bathing” your teeth in that acid gives it even more time to break down your enamel. “It is best to enjoy your juicy drink in a few minutes,” Adibi explained, adding, “Brush afterward or rinse your teeth thoroughly to dilute the acidity of the remnant of fruit juice.”


You probably already know grinding your teeth is bad for you. But do you know why? Adibi explained that just like acid, grinding wears down the enamel. Who cares about enamel? You should. This isn’t like nail polish, girls: It’s a layer on your teeth that protects you from sensitivity to cold and hot foods. It can also lead to TMJ — a condition that causes pain and dysfunction in the jaw — or worse. Try a mouth guard like what you’d use on a soccer field, or talk to your dentist about other suggestions. (In our case, we’re thinking we just need a Xanax each afternoon.)

Brushing improperly

Dr. Jason Psillakis, a clinical dentistry professor from Columbia University, says that there’s actually a wrong way to brush and that many people aren’t doing it effectively. “Teeth should be brushed for about two minutes using a soft-bristled toothbrush,” Psillakis shared. He also said you should definitely brush twice daily, once in the morning and once at night. Two minutes, twice a day? Think of it as the 2×2 Rule.

Whitening too often

We get it. You want movie-star perfect teeth. However, Psillakis warned against using those whitening trays on a daily basis. “If [you’re] using strips or trays daily, it may affect the teeth, causing sensitivity,” Psillakis warned. Using a toothbrush with whitening bristles, like the ARM & HAMMER™ Spinbrush™ Truly Radiant™ Deep Clean, is probably your best option.

Fluoride… maybe

We all know fluoride is beneficial for our smile. Evidence shows that there are good outcomes from fluoride, which Dr. Smigel, better known as the father of cosmetic dentistry, explained. “As children grow, the accumulation of fluoride in their bones helps to strengthen their permanent (adult) teeth, even before they develop,” Smigel explained.

Still, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Smigel says many worry about flourosis, which happens when someone is exposed to too much fluoride. It can lead to stains, spots or pits on the teeth — something no one wants. There’s no need to avoid fluoride toothpastes or treatments from your dentist, but adding extra fluoride supplements may do more harm than good.


Mouthwash, often the final step in a dental hygiene routine, is something we do to take care of our teeth, right? Unfortunately, Smigel says that step may actually be encouraging decay. Mouthwashes are often loaded with sugars. You didn’t think they got so tasty without something sweet, did you?

So what’s a gal to do? Smigel suggests being careful about what you’re pouring into your mouth on the regular. “People should look for a mouthwash that is sugar-free,” Smigel suggested.

You already know you should ditch the sugar, but if you won’t do it for your health or your waistline, do it for your grin.

This post was sponsored by Arm & Hammer.

More on dental care

The No. 1 worst food for your teeth (it’s not candy)
A guide to your child’s dental health
When should kids really first visit the dentist?

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