You know how to properly brush your teeth. You go in for regular dental checkups and cleanings. So you’re doing all you can to protect your teeth, right? Wrong. If you are practicing bad habits or eating the wrong foods, you may unknowingly hurt your teeth.
These habits can cause damage to your teeth:
- Grinding and clenching teeth (bruxism)—Bruxism is often an involuntary habit caused by genetics, stress or other factors. It is common to clench or grind your teeth at night, which means you may not know you’re doing it until you see evidence in the form of tooth wear and breakage.
- Using your teeth as tools—If you think opening that bag of potato chips or shortening that piece of thread with your teeth is a convenient time-saver, consider this: you may chip your teeth and wear down enamel. Take the extra time to grab a pair of scissors and don’t hurt your teeth.
- Holding pencils and pens with the front teeth—When you hold pencils, pens, and other hard objects between your teeth, you are placing force against them. Eventually, you may break your teeth because they can only withstand a certain amount of pressure.
- Biting into and chewing ice—This habit also puts undue pressure on your teeth and can chip, fracture, or completely break your teeth.
- Snacking between meals—Eating sugary or starchy foods between meals can make your mouth a breeding ground for bacteria. If you do snack, eat raw, firm fruits or vegetables, like carrots, celery, and apples (foods often known as “nature’s toothbrushes”). These are also great to eat with meals.
- Brushing directly after meals—Keeping your teeth free of food debris and plaque is important. But when eating sugary, starchy, or acidic foods, can soften your tooth enamel. Wait about 30 minutes after eating to brush or you will hurt your teeth. That gives your enamel time to harden again. Brush gently, because overzealous brushing can also cause damage.
Foods and drinks that can damage your teeth include:
- Acidic foods—Vinegar, citrus fruits, fermented foods (like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir), sports drinks (which contain citric acid), and wine can erode tooth enamel. Oddly enough, citrus fruits can also protect your teeth by increasing saliva flow. But you should rinse your mouth with water after eating acidic foods because they soften tooth enamel. Many people are not aware of how acidic foods can hurt your teeth.
- Sugary foods and drinks—Bacteria thrive on sugary foods, and as they reproduce they release acids that cause tooth decay.
- Starchy foods—Starchy foods can also cause bacteria to grow, this causing tooth decay. Be especially careful with starchy food that sticks to your teeth, like potato chips.
- Coffee and tea—Coffee or tea sweetened with sugar can harm your teeth. They can also stain teeth. However, green and black teas contain naturally occurring fluoride and antioxidants, which are beneficial to your oral health. Black tea also helps inhibit plaque.
- Sodas—Even diet sodas can harm teeth. They aren’t sugary, but they do contain phosphoric acid, which can erode teeth over time.
- Fruit or olives containing pits—Take care when eating these foods. Biting down onto hard pieces of food can cause stress on, or even break, teeth.
If you consume starchy, sugary or acidic foods or drinks, be sure to rinse your mouth with water afterwards. You can also chew gum sweetened with xylitol (not sugar!), because studies show that it can help restore tooth enamel.