Illustration by Daria Krikunova.
We certainly hope that you, presumably an adult, have mastered the art of brushing your teeth. But there are plenty of other less-obvious things you can do to keep those pearly whites healthy and happy. Here are a couple of surprising habits that might be damaging your teeth without knowing it:
1. Chewing ice cubes
It's frozen water, natural and sugar-free, so you might think that ice is harmless. However, the opposite is true. Chewing on hard and cold ice cubes can chip or even crack your teeth. Moreover, chewing on ice-cubes can cause problems with existing dental work such as fillings and crowns. And if your mindless chomping irritates the soft tissue inside the tooth, regular toothaches may occur. Additionally, hot foods and cold foods may trigger quick, sharp jabs of pain or a lingering toothache. Next time you get the urge for ice, chew some sugarless gum instead (1).
2. Sticky nightmare
When it comes to healthy snacks, many people choose dried fruit as number one. However, dried fruit contains sugar and is sticky, and sticky means that it will stay on your teeth longer than other food which will result in damaging your teeth. For instance, fig bars might seem like the perfect healthy choice but they are bad for your teeth (2). Instead, snack on vegetables, carrots = the on-the-go toothbrush. If you snack on dried fruits often, make sure to rinse your mouth with water after eating or brush and floss with extra care.
3. Using your teeth as a tool
Opening beer bottles, post or plastic packaging with your teeth may be convenient, but this is one habit that makes dentists cringe. Using your teeth as a tool can cause them to crack or chip. Instead, keep scissors and bottle openers close by. The bottom line, your teeth should only be used for eating (3).
4. Dry mouth
Skip juices, sodas, lemonades, energy drinks, and ice-tea if you want to prevent cavities. Instead, drink water. Not only is it good to hydrate your body, but it’s also good to hydrate your mouth. A dry mouth creates an environment where it’s easier for bacteria to cause cavities (4). A good tip is to keep your glass or water bottle at your desk while you are working. Remember, out of sight, out of mind.
5. The danger of tongue piercings
Tongue piercing might look edgy, but can be dangerous to your oral health. They can cause your teeth to break or chip which will require further dental work. Usually discouraged by dentists, tongue piercings can cause a lot of teeth and mouth trouble. Repeatedly clicking the jewellery against your teeth can damage especially your teeth and fillings. Additionally, having a tongue piercing can potentially spread the periodontal bacteria in different areas of your mouth (5). For your perfect dental health, we recommend you keep out of mouth piercing.
6. Not all coffee is good for you
Drinking coffee or tea in its natural form is considered a healthy choice. On the other hand, many people enjoy their drink with a bit of sugar. Moreover, caffeinated coffee and tea can also dry out your mouth and stain your teeth (6). If you consume coffee and tea with sugar make sure to always drink a glass of water afterwards so you keep the sugar to a minimum.
7. Biting your nails
The basic rule says that teeth should be used only for eating. Constantly biting your nails can damage your teeth, as well as exposing your mouth to the large spectrum of bacteria that lives under your nails. Biting anything other than food increases the risk of cracking and chipping teeth, and inviting foreign bacteria into the mouth increases the chance of infection and sickness (7). Probably the scariest thing nail biting can do to your teeth is cause the jaw bone to reabsorb the roots, weakening them and loosening them especially if you're wearing braces. To avoid biting nails, you can try bitter-tasting polish which will discourage you from nibbling. Another tip is to keep your nails short, so there is less surface area to bite.
1. Is it bad to eat ice?. 2018. Medical News Today. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321999.php
2.The 8 worst foods for your teeth in 2015. Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/dental-and-oral-health/worst-foods-for-your-teeth#6
3.19 habits that wreck your teeth. 2019. WebMD. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/ss/slideshow-teeth-wreckers
4. Dry mouth. 2019. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.Available at: https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/dry-mouth
5. Prevalence of periodontal pathogenic bacteria at different oral sites of patients with tongue piercing - results of a cross-sectional study. 2019. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31492606
6. 9 foods that damage your teeth. 2019. Mouth Healthy by ADA. Available at:https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/nutrition/food-tips/9-foods-that-damage-your-teeth
7. 5 reasons to stop biting your nails. 2016. Vital Record. Available at: https://vitalrecord.tamhsc.edu/biting-nails/