Your oral health plays a critical role in your overall health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, when it comes to oral health, there are a lot of misconceptions out there. While a few are harmless (only bright white teeth are healthy), a lot of these myths can damage your teeth and hurt your gums. Even some seemingly-innocent habits can cause serious damage if they aren’t curbed.
To help you take care of your teeth and gums, here is a list of common dental myths debunked, and some bad habits you should avoid.
Nip these habits in the bud. Your teeth and gums will thank you!
This nervous habit can not only chip your teeth, but it can also cause jaw problems. When we bite our nails, we tend to push our jaw forward, forming an underbite. This position strains the jaw, and holding it for a prolonged period of time can cause jaw dysfunction and pain.
To break your nail-biting habit try bitter-tasting nail polishes, work on reducing your stress levels, or try substituting nail-biting with a less harmful habit such as fidgeting with something to keep your fingers busy.
Brushing Too Hard
We all know that brushing for two minutes, twice per day is a critical component of any at-home oral hygiene routine. However, make sure you brush gently and choose a soft-bristled toothbrush. Brushing too hard can wear away at your tooth enamel, irritate your gums, and cause your gums to recede.
To help ensure you select a good toothbrush, try and choose a manual or electric toothbrush from the Canadian Dental Association’s list of recognized products and use your brush to massage your teeth and gums, not scrub them.
Clenching & Grinding
Grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw can causejaw problems, wear down your tooth enamel, and even cause your teeth to chip or crack. If you grind your teeth or clench your jaw at night, speak to your dentist about investing in a mouthguard. If you typically clench or grind during the day, be mindful of your clenching and grinding and do your best to relax.
Chewing Ice Cubes
Chewing ice cubes can cause your teeth orfillings to crack or chip. Try drinking with a straw to avoid temptation, or serve your drinks chilled, so you don’t have to rely on ice cubes. You could also try swapping out ice cubes for frozen fruit, but make sure you wait until the fruit has thawed before eating it.
Constantly snacking or drinking increases your risk of developing cavities, particularly if you are consuming foods and drinks that are high in sugar. The bacteria in our mouths consume the food debris that is left on our teeth after we eat or drink, converting it into acid that damages our enamel.
When we continuously snack, food debris stays on our teeth for longer, providing the bacteria with a neverending buffet. To help prevent tooth decay, try and eat filling and balanced meals so you can avoid snacking and brush your teeth after every meal. If you really need a snack, try and choose something that is low in fat and sugar. If you eat something sugary and you can’t brush your teeth afterwards, rinse your mouth with water to remove as much food debris as you can.
Drinking Sugary Beverages
Like constant snaking, continually sipping on sugary beverages makes you more susceptible to tooth decay. Pop is highly acidic and wears away at your tooth enamel. The effects of pop are even more pronounced if you slowly sip it over a long period of time, continually bathing your teeth in acid and sugar.
To help safeguard your enamel, and your overall health, make water your default beverage of choice.
Using Your Teeth As Tools
Your teeth are designed for eating, not holding things or cutting through things. When you use your teeth for things other than eating, you risk cracking your teeth, damaging your jaw, or swallowing something that can cause you harm.
As tempting as it is just to use our teeth, you should avoid doing so. Instead, ask for help or find the right tool for the job. If your teeth become cracked or damaged, contact your dentist right away for an emergency dental appointment.
Patient education is a cornerstone of any good dental strategy. To help ensure you have the facts you need, here are the facts about common dental myths.
Only Sugar Causes Tooth Decay
Most of us know that sugar is linked to tooth decay, but it isn’t the only culprit. Sugary and starchy foods, carbonated drinks, and alcohol (which dries out your mouth) are definitely the worst culprits when it comes to tooth decay.
However, any food or drink that is left on your teeth can cause tooth decay, regardless of whether or not it contains sugar. That is why it is essential to brush your teeth for a full two minutes at least twice per day, and floss at least once per day, to remove food particles and other debris before it can harden into calculus. Ideally, you should be brushing your teeth after every meal or snack, but if this isn’t possible, you should at least rinse your mouth with water once you have finished eating or drinking.
No Cavities; No Gum Disease
Just because your teeth are in good shape doesn’t mean your gums are. Gum disease is painless, which means many Canadians don’t even realize they have it. If your gums are red, tender, or prone to bleeding, it may be a sign that you have gingivitis. If it is caught early on, gingivitis can be eliminated using a dental cleaning as well as at home brushing and flossing.
Regular dental exams and cleanings allow your dentist and dental hygienist to check up on your teeth and gums and catch small problems early on before they become worse.
Gum Disease is Rare
Gum disease is actually incredibly common. According to the Canadian Dental Association, 70% of all Canadians will develop gum disease at some point in their life. Gum disease develops when food particles and other debris are allowed to sit on our teeth and gums, forming plaque. This plaque is acidic and can damage our teeth and make our gums irritated and inflamed.
Plaque that is not brushed away each day can harden into tartar or calculus, which can only be removed during a dental cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist using specialized tools.
Bad Breath & Gum Disease
While post-pasta garlic breath is something many of us have experienced, chronic unexplained bad breath may be an indicator of gum disease. Though bad breath can also be caused by smoking and certain medications, you should speak to your dentist if your breath remains unpleasant even after brushing and flossing. If your bad breath is not caused by gum disease, your dentist will most likely refer you to your primary care physician.
Diabetes Causes Gum Disease
Diabetes is a systemic condition that affects your body in many ways and can have a negative impact on your oral health. Though diabetes increases your risk of developing gum disease, you won’t develop gum disease simply because you have diabetes.
However, your increased risk means that you should be extra vigilant about your oral health, and see your dentist and dental hygienist regularly.
Bloody Gums During Pregnancy is Normal
The hormone fluctuations that occur during pregnancy can cause some pregnant individuals to develop gingivitis during pregnancy. However, you should take steps to prevent pregnancy gingivitis, such as brushing and flossing more frequently. Your dentist may also suggest that you come in for more frequent cleanings during your pregnancy.
Dental myths and bad habits can cause a variety of oral health-related problems, including chipped teeth, damaged enamel, gum disease, and other serious problems. If you have any questions about your oral health, and what you can do to safeguard it, please speak to your dentist during your next appointment.