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15 Ways to Wreck Your Teeth and Damage Tooth Enamel

15 Ways to Wreck Your Teeth

Teeth are tough — their enamel is the hardest part of the body — but they’re no match for neglect, misuse, or abuse. Here are some surefire ways to find out how vulnerable your teeth are — trust us, you don’t want to do this:

1. Don’t Brush After Every Meal.

The ideal is to brush your teeth three times a day: after breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But if you do it too soon, you can scrub away tooth enamel that becomes softer in the acidic environment created in your mouth when you eat.

“Make sure you wait 30 to 60 minutes after each meal, which gives the acidity time to neutralize and the teeth time to remineralize,” says Debra Gray King, DDS, FAACD, of the Atlanta Center for Cosmetic Dentistry.

Brushing too much, too hard, or with a hard-bristle brush can also erode your enamel. Brush gently, using circular strokes and a soft brush.

2. Forget About Flossing.

Flossing stimulates gum health by cleaning between the teeth and under the gum line. Gums bleed when you brush vigorously? That’s a sign of mild gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, which can lead to tooth loss.

“You need to brush and floss your teeth every time you eat,” says Jeffrey Gross DDS, FAGD, a Cleveland dentist. “The longer food stays in contact with the teeth and the gums, the easier it is to create problems.”

3. Skip checkups.

Dentists recommend every six months, but most patients fail to comply. This allows plaque to form tartar, which attracts more plaque on its surface, carrying the plaque deeper within the gums. This can weaken supporting structures, such as bone.

“The sooner you find issues, the easier and a lot less expensive they will be to address,” King says.

4. Use Your Teeth as Tools.

Chomping ice and hard candy, not to mention popping off bottle caps and ripping open potato chip bags, can crack or break your teeth.

“People tend to do some wild things with their teeth,” King says. She recalls a patient in her 50s who habitually gripped the ropes of her sailboat’s mast between her teeth. 

Over time, the woman’s natural teeth had worn to the point she needed porcelain veneers. Find a bottle opener or pair of scissors. And if you’re sailing, use your hands.

5. Ditch the Mouthguard.

The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) recommends mouthguards for many athletes. 

“Anytime there is a strong chance for contact with other participants or hard surfaces, it is advisable to wear a mouthguard. Players who participate in basketball, softball, football, wrestling, soccer, lacrosse, rugby, in-line skating, and martial arts, as well as recreational sports such as skateboarding and bicycling, should wear mouthguards while competing,” the AGD’s web site states. 

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