Habits That Can Harm Your Oral Health
We all know that we need to brush and floss. But many of us don’t realize how certain lifestyle choices can negatively impact our oral health, from our teeth to our mouth microbiome. Read on for a quick primer on habits that can wreak havoc.
The Key Roles of Acids and Saliva
Harmful bacteria that live in the plaque on our teeth produce acids, which can lead to cavities. Plus, acids in the foods and drinks we consume can cause our teeth to erode or weaken. One of the most powerful antidotes to the harmful effects of these acids is saliva, which can:
Dilute decay-causing acids
Bring calcium and phosphate to teeth, to strengthen tooth enamel
Replace magnesium and carbonate in tooth enamel with cavity-resistant fluorapatite crystals
Distribute proteins to the surfaces of teeth to help guard against dental erosion
Try to Curb These Habits
To improve your oral health, rethink these lifestyle choices.
Chewing gum with sugar often leads to more visits to the dentist. That’s because the bacteria on our teeth feed on this sugar to produce biofilm and acid, both of which contribute to cavities and weaker tooth enamel.
But there’s a caveat: Chewing sugar-free gum might be helpful. Here’s why: the act of chewing stimulates the release of more saliva. In fact, studies have shown that chewing sugar-free gum 20 minutes after meals correlates with fewer cavities. Similarly, a 2021 systematic review and meta-analysis revealed that the practice led to a smaller amount of cavity-causing oral bacteria.
Sugar is the main culprit when it comes to cavities. Generally, the more sugar you consume, the more cavities you likely have, according to research. Since sugar-sweetened beverages are a primary source of sugar in the American diet, they’re a smart place to start when cutting back on the sweet stuff.
Acidic substances, especially drinks with low pH values, can cause tooth enamel to erode. If they also contain tannins, they can stain teeth too.
Try to reduce your intake of these:
Alcohol (red wine can also cause teeth staining)
Tea (can cause teeth staining)
Soft Drinks, including Diet Sodas (can also cause teeth staining)
Chewable Vitamin C Tablets and gummy vitamins (which can also stick to teeth and lead to cavities)
Acidic Fruit Juices
It’s no secret that drinking coffee can stain your teeth. However, research has shown that java might help prevent cavities and protect against gum disease. Just avoid taking it with sugar and creamer, which can lead to more tooth decay.
Smoking and Vaping
Among their many health drawbacks, cigarettes and smokeless tobacco can lead to gum recession and tooth staining. Plus, using smokeless tobacco correlates with enamel erosion, tooth loss, and bad breath. Along with other tools to help you break the habit, try keeping your mouth busy. Chew on sugar-free gum or snack on raw carrots or celery.
Being Too Hard on Teeth
If you chew on ice, bite your nails, use toothpicks after meals, or brush too hard (and with a hard-bristled toothbrush), you can cause damage to your teeth. Take it a bit easier, to keep your chompers in prime condition.
Tobacco Use and Cessation. (n.d.). American Dental Association. ADA.org
Methamphetamine. (n.d.). American Dental Association. ADA.org
Chewing gum. (n.d.). American Dental Association. ADA.org
Cannabis: Oral health effects. (n.d.). American Dental Association. ADA.org
Nutrition and oral health. (n.d.). American Dental Association. ADA.org
Dental erosion. (n.d.). American Dental Association. ADA.org
Drugs, alcohol and your oral health. (n.d.). Oral Health Foundation. Dentalhealth.org
Lemos, JA., Palmeret, SR., et al. (2019, Jul 9). National Library of Medicine. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Precker, M. (2020, Aug 6). American Heart Association News. Heart.org.
Yang, I., Sandeep, S., Rodriguez, J. (2020 Feb). National Library of Medicine. Pubmed.gov
Namboodiripad, A., Kori, S. (2009 Jan-Mar). National Library of Medicine. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Tsou, SH., Hu, SW., Yang, JJ. (2019). Nutrients. mdpi.com/.
Does Coffee Stain Your Teeth? (n.d.). Healthline. healthline.com.
Does Tea Stain Teeth? (2022, Feb 3). Colgate blog. colgate.com.
Gummy vitamins: Good or bad for oral health? (2016, Mar 24). Ehrenman & Kahn Pediatric Dentistry. pediatricdentistlongislandny.com
Quitting Smoking. (n.d.). Healthy Lifestyle. mayoclinic.org.
Soft vs. Hard Toothbrushes: What's Right For You. (2022, Mar 22). Colgate blog. colgate.com.
Is Chewing Ice Bad for Your Teeth? (2018, Feb 8). Natalie Harrison, DDS, Steven Hogan, DDS. houstonspediatricdentist.com.
How A Nail Biting Habit Affects The Teeth. (2019, Apr 24). Summit Dental Health. summitdentalhealth.net.
Why Toothpick Use Can Harm Teeth and Gums. (2015, May 18). Garnier Nichols Dental. garnernicholsdental.com.