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15 Daily Habits that Might be Wrecking Your Teeth (and How to Quit Them)

Your teeth will experience a certain amount of wear and tear throughout your lifetime. There’s just no getting around it. However, there are a variety of harmful daily habits that can quickly do damage to your teeth. These habits can accelerate tooth decay, lead to gum recession and increase the likelihood of cavities.    The correlation is fairly obvious with many habits. But with others, you may not even be aware that they’re an issue. Here are some of the worst habits along with advice on how to quit.

1. Smoking

Dental hygienist Donna M. Rounsaville writes about the havoc that smoking can wreak on your teeth on Colgate’s blog. She cites some specific issues as being stained teeth, inflammation around the teeth, increased risk for gum disease and even tooth loss. For information and resources on how to quit smoking, check out Tobacco Free Alachua. This is a branch of Tobacco Free Florida and serves the greater Gainesville area. You can also reach them via email at tobaccofreealachua@flhealth.gov or by calling 352-334-7914.

2. Drinking Coffee

Americans love their coffee. Reporter Karen Fernau explains that more than 8 in 10 adults drink coffee, and the average person drinks three cups a day. While this may fuel our nation’s productivity, it can also take a toll on your teeth. The Healthline team points out that coffee contains ingredients called tannins, which contribute to staining teeth and giving them a yellowish appearance. An obvious solution is to stop drinking coffee, which the team at Mama Natural offers tips on. They recommend switching to a healthier alternative like tea, drinking a glass of water whenever you feel drowsy and routinely exercising to increase energy.

3. Drinking Sugary Drinks

Soda, energy drinks and even many fruit drinks are overloaded with sugar. And as Ida Gorshteyn mentions at MouthHealthy, the sugars found in these drinks produce an acid that can damage teeth, cause cavities and erode tooth enamel.   Amanda MacMillan gives some helpful advice on how to quit drinking soda on Health.com, including gradually weaning yourself off by mixing it with water, switching to unsweetened tea and giving seltzer water a shot.

4. Drinking Alcohol in Excess

Alcoholism is harmful to the body in many different ways. Drinking in excess can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease, diabetes and more. But as the Destination Hope team adds,  it also increases the likelihood of cavities and gum disease. If you’ve been struggling with alcoholism, you can get help from the University of Florida Health. Visit their website to learn about their treatment facility and services. You can also reach them via telephone at 352-265-4372.

5. Eating Candy

This one should come as no surprise. While eating the occasional candy should have minimal impact, Elizabeth Palermo reports at Live Science that taking it to excess is one of the leading causes of cavities. Cavities are formed when bacteria living in your mouth digest carbohydrate debris from refined sugars. After digesting the debris, it produces an acid that combines with saliva to create plaque. It’s the plaque that ultimately leads to tooth decay. Dr. Linda Bobroff, a professor and nutrition specialist at the University of Florida, offers guidance for parents seeking to limit their kid’s sweet treats. She recommends not offering candy as a reward, serving sweet fruit as a dessert and not making “treats” everyday foods.

cough drops

6. Taking Cough Drops

Cough drops can be incredibly soothing when you’ve got a cold. However, Dr. Aaron D. Johnson of The Smile Center in North Dakota explains that they’re basically the equivalent of eating hard candy. He adds that they can be especially problematic because they often sit in the mouth for an extended period of time, and it’s that prolonged exposure that can destroy your enamel. The team at Southeastern Integrated Medical (SIMED) mentions some other ways that you can treat a cough without using cough drops. Some options include drinking warm liquids (such as tea) and taking antihistamines. Or if you have a sore throat along with it, try gargling with salt water.

7. Eating Excessive Junk Food

Most people are aware of the health-related side effects of eating excessive junk food containing high levels of calories, sugars and fats. But it’s a double whammy when you consider the damage it can do to your teeth. Dr. Yasaman Garakani of Smart Smile in Canada does a nice job of explaining how junk food can translate to tooth problems: The acids in this foods gradually strip away tooth enamel, which can lead to cavities and tooth decay. An article in The Gainesville Sun highlights some healthy snacking alternatives that are far better for your oral health. Some of their top picks include pistachios, pita chips with hummus and baked sweet potato fries.

8. Eating Acidic Foods in Excess

Foods like lemons, pineapples and tomatoes may seem fairly innocuous. And while they may have health benefits, they can also damage your teeth if eaten in excess. Sophia Breene writes at Greatest that highly acidic foods like these can stain your teeth and lead to enamel erosion. She also offers some advice. First, limit snacking on these types of foods. Second, when you do eat them, do it as part of a meal instead of strictly on their own. Third, use a flouride toothpaste to help with enamel repair.

9. Nail Biting

According to the team at Oral Answers, about half of the human population bites their nails. This is problematic because it can make the roots of your teeth weaker, can lead to your teeth becoming chipped and can contribute to gingivitis. The reason behind compulsive nail biting is often anxiety, which is a problem that many people deal with. If you suffer from anxiety or think you may have generalized anxiety doctor, there are numerous mental health specialists in Gainesville who can help.

10. Chewing on Pens or Pencils

Reporter Tom Jenkin notes there are myriad dental issues that can stem from chewing on pens or pencils. Some of these issues include wearing teeth down, the development of hairline cracks in the enamel and discoloration. This is another nervous habit that can really take a toll on your oral health. Mack Lemouse at Health Guidance offers some tips for preventing this habit. Those include simply putting the pen or pencil down when you’re not writing, chewing gum instead, and asking colleagues to “call you out” whenever you’re doing it.

closeup of dentist looking at dental x-ray plate

11. Grinding Your Teeth

Known as bruxism, grinding your teeth can do damage to your teeth, jaw, crowns and restorations, The Mayo Clinic writes. In severe cases, it can even lead to facial and/or jaw pain. They also point out that it’s often hereditary and may result from increased stress and anxiety. If you’re concerned with the impact of habitually grinding your teeth and the damage it can do, it might be time to set up a consultation with an orthodontist.

12. Chewing on Ice

This may seem like an innocent habit, but as the Dental Plans team points out, chewing on ice can lead to chipped or cracked teeth, damage to tooth enamel, and teeth becoming more prone to cavities. They also mention that chronic ice chewing can sometimes be linked to anemia and may be something you need to get checked.

13. Opening Things with Your Mouth

Teeth are something of an evolutionary Swiss army knife, but that doesn’t mean they’re the best option for opening a bag of chips. Jackie Middleton at Best Health shows how this can ruin your teeth: It can potentially fracture a tooth, damage a filling and even break a tooth.

14. Brushing Too Hard

At first thought, brushing your teeth with plenty of force may seem like a good thing — like you’re really getting at all of the plaque. But in reality, brushing too hard can harm your teeth and gums. Dr. Peter Alldritt explains in ABC Health & Wellbeing that brushing too hard can actually cause your gums to recede. When they do, the recession exposes the neck of your tooth, which can accelerate decay.   The team at Delta Dental provides guidance on how to properly brush and recommends

  • using a soft-bristled brush,
  • using short strokes and a scrubbing motion rather than “sawing” back and forth,
  • and applying only enough pressure to feel the bristles against the gums.

15. Skipping Brushing

Many people skip brushing from time to time for one reason or another. But as Lauren Schumacker points out in Romper, this increases your chances of getting a cavity, can leave your gums inflamed, and rob your teeth of the fluoride they need to remineralize and repair themselves. It’s a bad deal all around. So be diligent about brushing, and do it at least twice a day. Images by: nemar74/©123RF Stock Photo, fahroni/©123RF Stock Photo, rido/©123RF Stock Photo

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