Dental cavities are among the most common diseases worldwide. If that fact surprises you, it may be because we often don’t think of dental conditions like cavities or gingivitis as diseases. Why? It may be because they’re so easily preventable.
The lives we live have a big influence on how healthy we are, whether we realize it or not. In the case of dental health, small choices that we make every day, like whether to floss and brush our teeth, can build up to a giant impact over time. See these 12 habits may be decaying your teeth before their time.
Habit #1 – Eating Too Much Sugar
Unless you follow a specific diet, you can’t get away from sugar in today’s society. Sugar is in almost every product you eat, especially snack foods and beverages. Regularly consuming too much sugar is known to be unhealthy for many reasons.
Sugar is particularly troublesome for oral hygiene. It fuels bacterial growth, and bacteria produce acids that attack tooth enamel, the smooth outer surface of your teeth. This begins the process of cavity formation and tooth decay.
While cutting down on sugar is one of the healthiest things most people can do, it’s best to brush, floss, and swish with mouthwash after consuming sweets if you just can’t avoid them.
Habit #2 – Dry Mouth
Avoid a dry mouth. Saliva cleans your mouth continuously and supplies minerals to your teeth. Without it, a harmful film may develop. This gives bacteria a better chance to attack your teeth and gums.
Pure water, bottled or tapped, is the best choice to moisten your mouth and keep you hydrated. Drinking pure water, with no flavoring or additives, washes your teeth and is good for your complexion and overall good health.
Habit #3 – Eating Starchy or Acidic Foods
Gummy and gooey treats form a welcome mat for bacteria by sticking to your teeth. Bacteria tend to form plaque, and this can turn into tartar. Tartar is destructive to teeth and harmful to gums. Avoid sticky sour candy in general, since this kind of candy is often loaded with citric and other corrosive acids that attack tooth enamel.
Bread can be bad for your teeth. Starches in bread break down in your mouth and begin to form sugar. Bread turns into a sticky paste and fills cracks between your teeth. This paste, if not removed promptly, promotes decay.
Citrus fruits like lemons, limes, and oranges get their tart taste from organic acids, including oxalic, tartaric, isocitric, and citric acid. These acids work together to attack your teeth.
You might avoid these foods if you can. If not, brush your teeth and use an antiseptic mouthwash after eating them.
Habit #4 – Midnight Sacks
Lots of people get up in the middle of the night for a quick snack. This habit can be bad for your teeth, and contribute to unwanted weight gain.
Try having a fuller meal at dinner time. Switch to healthy alternatives, like celery or carrots, instead of snacking on sweets and junk food. If you can’t stop midnight snacking, add brushing, flossing, and mouthwash to the nightly routine. You’re up anyway, right?
Habit #5 – Too Many Soft Drinks
Carbonated drinks encourage plaque to form acid. This is important to understand, especially if you’re in the habit of drinking soda all day. Curb this habit for healthier teeth.
Excess soda consumption is a hard habit to break. Our favorite sodas are formulated to make us want to drink them. A determined consumer can break this habit. Instead of going “cold turkey,” try substitution. Drink a bottle of flavored water now and then. One bottle at first, then more as you feel like it. Your body will adapt. Switch to pure water, using the same substitution method, when you’re ready.
Cutting down on soda consumption is never a bad idea. It’s worth the effort, for your teeth and overall health.
Habit #6 – Sports Without a Mouth Guard
If you skate, bike, or practice other active sports, wear a mouth guard. You don’t have to get hit in the face with a baseball or hockey puck to harm your smile. There are lots of crashes and falls on trails and in skate parks. Protect your smile with a mouth guard.
Habit #7 – Hard Foods & Ice
Chewing on hard foods like ice or hard candy carries a risk of chipping or breaking your teeth. Even if it seems harmless, chewing on hard foods can cause microfractures in the structure of your teeth that weaken them over time.
Your teeth are tough, but not indestructible. Don’t go looking for their limit.
Habit #8 – Chewing on Things that Aren’t Food
Non-food items damage teeth if you chew on them. Common chewable items may be pens, paperclips, bobby pins, etc. Just holding them between your teeth leaves marks. Microscopic scratches and chips in the enamel invite food particles, which provide a bed for bacteria.
Habit #9 – Infrequent Brushing
Infrequent or poor brushing allows plaque and tartar to build up on your teeth. This material contributes to gum disease and inflammation. Cardiologists have also found it can be bad for your heart.
You should brush your teeth gently with a good toothbrush at least two times per day. The best times to brush are usually after you wake up in the morning and before going to bed at night. Brushing is especially important for children.
Brushing after meals and sweets can be a good habit too. However, you can over-brush, or brush too hard. Your dentist can help you determine if you’re not brushing enough, too often, or too vigorously.
Habit #10 – Skipping Dental Floss
Millions of people don’t floss. This habit is a big cause of tooth decay and can contribute to gum disease. The small spaces between your teeth are traps for food particles and a great place for plaque to form. This lets tartar creep in to attack your teeth and gums.
Make sure to keep the “alleys” between your teeth clean. Find a floss you are comfortable using, and try to break this habit. Your dentist can recommend a floss that is best for you.
Habit #11 – Forgetting Mouthwash
Mouthwash provides several benefits. Antiseptic mouthwashes kill bacteria, halting the formation of acids and plaque. Mouthwash can carry beneficial compounds to help remineralize the surface of your teeth.
Your smile deserves a fresh breath, so if this describes one of your habits, consider breaking it. There are dozens of different kinds of mouthwash. Your dentist can help you find the right one for you.
Habit #12 – Missing Your Dentist
Not going to the dentist regularly is one of the worst things you can do for your teeth. People are often cautious of the expense and don’t like the hassle of setting up and attending appointments. Breaking this habit is well worth it.
Modern dentistry is virtually painless. Your dentist can find problems while they are small and easy – and relatively inexpensive – to fix. They can help you form a consistent health plan that you can follow to protect your teeth and your mouth from damage.
Getting into the habit of regular dental appointments may be the best single thing you can do to protect your smile.
Protect Your Teeth
Your teeth live in a tough neighborhood. They’re in constant danger of slamming into a neighbor. They’re splashed with acid on a regular basis. They have to fight off bacteria daily. And they have to stay harder than anything you try to eat.
These habits may mean small changes to your life, but the impact they’ll have on your teeth applied over your entire life is enormous. Take the steps you need to protect your teeth today.
Written by: Tess DiNapoli
Tess DiNapoli is an artist, freelance writer, and content strategist. She has a passion for yoga and
often writes about health and wellness, but also enjoys covering the fashion industry and the world of fitness.