Sure, daily brushing and flossing are just what the doctor ordered, but they may not be enough to keep your teeth in tip-top shape. A few common habits secretly hurt our teeth, and Annalisa Somers, a dentist based in Austin, Texas, says that most people don’t even realize they’re doing harm. Are you guilty of any of these five dental don’ts?
Eating too slowly — or too frequently
The rate and frequency at which you eat can affect your oral health negatively. After a meal, the sticky plaque on your teeth releases acids that attack your teeth — so snacking throughout the day causes that to recur, eventually causing cavities. “Say you have a bag of gummy snacks or chocolate,” says Somers. “You eat one now, one in 30 minutes, one in an hour — that’s worse for your teeth than if you sat and ate the whole packet at once.” The same thing applies to sitting down for a long, slow meal. Your teeth are bombarded with food particles, and your mouth doesn’t have the opportunity to fight the bacteria.
Grinding and clenching
“A lot of women grind their teeth, and they aren’t aware they do it because they do it in their sleep,” says Somers. Similarly, clenching your teeth when under stress causes damage, too. According to Somers, both grinding and clenching can cause teeth to wear down prematurely or possibly crack a tooth. Symptoms to watch for include headaches or a sore jaw.
Skipping the dentist — especially when trying to conceive
The American Dental Association recommends twice-yearly visits to the dentist. While this seems like a lot — you only see your primary care physician once a year, after all — skipping the regular trips to the dentist allows plaque to build up and small problems to develop into serious ones. One of the most important times to visit the dentist is when you’re trying to conceive. Be aware of conditions like pregnancy-induced gingivitis to stay on top of your oral health while pregnant.
Allowing your mouth to get dry
Certain medications cause dry mouth. Without adequate saliva to wash your mouth and neutralize acids, it ultimately causes you to have more cavities. Medications that cause dry mouth include diuretics, antihistamines, decongestants and painkillers, and the more you take of these medications, the worse your dry mouth becomes. Other causes of dry mouth include Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that affects 4 million people, 90 percent of whom are women, and asthma patients who use inhalers. But if you take any medications that cause dry mouth or suffer from a condition like Sjogren’s, know you have an increased risk of hurting your teeth. Brush more often, skip the sweets and drink more water.
Sodas are basically liquid candy when it comes to the amount of tooth damage; their sugars and acids cause dental erosion and cavities. According to Somers, it’s OK to have a soda once in a while, but there are a few strategies to prevent the damage to your teeth caused by soda. If you’re going to drink a soda, don’t sip it throughout the day. Drink it all at once or with a meal. “Sipping a soda is like bathing your mouth in sugar all day long,” she says. Another great option is to drink sodas (or any sugary drink) through a straw so that you bypass your teeth.