Now that 2021 has arrived, it’s time to pick a new resolution that you are dedicated to keeping. This year, try to focus on your oral health. Stay motivated throughout the year to break those bad habits that can cause serious harm – not only to your teeth, but also to your overall well-being.
Sugar is the number one enemy of your teeth. Cutting back on your sugar intake will help protect them and keep you on the right track with other New Year’s resolutions you may have, such as getting in shape. All sugary candies promote tooth decay because they work to erode protective enamel. The bacteria in your mouth convert the sugars into an acid that eats away at tooth enamel, causing cavities and other serious dental problems. Gummy candies are some of the worst culprits because their sugars stick to your teeth, meaning the acid produced stays in contact with your enamel for extended periods of time. To mitigate risks, get in the habit of brushing or flossing your teeth after consuming sugary treats.
Sugary drinks like soda, sports drinks, and fruit juice should also be avoided. Did you know that sodas can have up to 11 teaspoons of sugar per serving? And don’t be fooled by sports drinks and fruit juices that often have close to the same amount of sugar as sodas. Sugary drinks create an acid attack on the enamel of your teeth, and consuming them frequently can lead to decay. The next time you are thirsty, grab your water bottle first! Water is sugar-free, calorie-free, and will keep your teeth and body happy and healthy.
Drinking Acidic Beverages
Sodas also contain phosphoric and citric acids that work in tandem with sugar to eat away at tooth enamel. Even diet drinks that tout smaller amounts of sugar usually have more acid than regular soft drinks due to their artificial sweeteners.
Brace yourselves coffee lovers – coffee is extremely acidic! Not only does coffee’s acidity wear on tooth enamel, but its dark color can also cause yellowing of the teeth over time. Fortunately, coffee stains are some of the easiest stains to treat with various whitening methods. You can also limit coffee’s contact with your teeth by drinking through a straw aimed at the back of your mouth. If you drink multiple cups a day, try your best to cut back and switch to water sometimes instead. Believe it or not, water actually wakes your body up and gives it an energy boost better than coffee.
The acids in wine can also eat away at tooth enamel, creating rough spots that make your teeth more vulnerable to staining. In particular, red wine contains deep pigments called chromogen and tannins, which help the color stick to your teeth. To minimize staining, reduce your wine intake, rinse your mouth with water after drinking, or try using toothpaste with a whitening agent.
Chewing Hard Items
Chewing on ice, pencils, fingernails, and other hard items can also cause wear and tear on your teeth. If your teeth are worn or chipped already, chewing on hard items can crack and damage their structure further. The next time you feel the need to chew something, try sugarless gum. It will trigger the flow of saliva, which can make your teeth stronger and protect them against enamel-eating acids.
Grinding Your Teeth
Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is most often caused by stress and sleeping habits, so it can often be hard to control. When you grind or clench your teeth, you place a severe amount of pressure on them that can lead to fractures or wear down tooth surfaces. Seek advice from a dentist if you habitually grind your teeth. Wearing a mouth guard at night can also prevent the damage caused by tooth-grinding.
Teeth grinding or clenching is also a common symptom of a TemporoMandibular Joint (TMJ) disorder, also known as TMD. TMJ is the joint connecting your jawbone to your skull, and other common signs of TMD include regular migraines, earaches, and vertigo. If you think you may have this condition, check with your dentist, as there are non-invasive, non-surgical options that may be able to help.
It’s a new year filled with new possibilities, so don’t let an unhealthy smile hold you back. Your teeth will surely thank you if you kick these harmful habits in 2021!
Dr. Edmond Suh
Owner of Supremia Dentistry, located at 1711 S. Main St. in Wake Forest.