We all know the basics: brush after you eat, drink plenty of water, floss at least once daily, and see your dentist twice a year for regular checkups. However, oral health doesn’t end there. Whether for ease or simply because they don’t think it’s necessary, many adults have taken up these unhealthy dental habits that can gradually lead to serious problems. Read on to find out if you’re guilty of making any of these five common dental mistakes.
Sure, it looks cool with a biker jacket, but beyond the aesthetic appeal, chewing on a toothpick can be damaging to your teeth and gums. In addition to the risk of a toothpick splintering and cutting your gums, picking between your teeth can cause your gums to bleed. Most dental professionals agree that toothpicks are a poor substitute for floss; sure, use it if you’re at a restaurant and caught a big piece of broccoli in between your teeth, but beyond that, steer clear of picking your teeth.
Brushing Right After Coffee
We know, we know: “but my dentist tells me to brush after I eat!” But brushing your teeth immediately after eating or drinking very acidic foods or beverages – like coffee or fruit – can actually do more harm than good. The acid in these types of foods can actually weaken your tooth enamel, which can then wear away when you brush. If you’re worried about coffee staining your teeth, try chewing a sugar-free gum after your morning cup, and if you must brush after eating something acidic, swish some water around in your mouth first to remove any additional acid that stayed behind on the surface of your teeth.
Using the Internet as Your Dental Consultant
While Pinterest might be great for DIY-crafting at home, it’s not so safe for DIY dental care. Following the advice of social media when attempting something like teeth whitening – which should be done under the supervision of your dentist – can go seriously wrong and actually cause significant damage to your teeth and gums. Trying a seemingly harmless experiment to try to whiten your teeth or reduce your bad breath can seriously hurt your gums or teeth. The problem with social media and health advice is that anyone can post anything, and make their content seem official and proven. If you must search online, keep your search to sites that end in .org or .net to ensure their content comes from a reputable source.
Brushing (or flossing) Too Hard
Yes, you can have too much of a good thing. In the case of brushing too hard or for too long, your gums can start to recede and your tooth enamel can wear away over time, exposing your sensitive teeth and gums to damage and infections. Flossing too hard can cause your gums to bleed and eventually recede as well. However, there’s a delicate balance between how hard you floss and how sensitive your gums are. If your gums bleed even from light flossing, let your dentist know right away – you may be at risk for gum disease.
Not Replacing Your Retainer
If you thought wearing a retainer was just for kids who just got their braces off, think again. A retainer helps keep your straight teeth in place, and can also be used to protect your teeth and jaw against night grinding, which many adults experience unknowingly in their sleep. Grinding or clenching your teeth can lead to a misaligned jaw, damaged teeth, a weakened jawbone, TMJ disorder, and headaches. Additionally, wearing a retainer at night can keep train your teeth to stay in place even years after your braces are gone, reducing the likelihood of needing repeat braces. Do your future self a favor: wear your retainer.