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5 surprising ways you’re damaging your teeth

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Are you destroying your pearly whites without realizing it? You might be doing permanent damage if you’re a nail-biter or using your teeth to rip off the price tag from that new dress. Stop and heed this advice: “Brush your teeth twice daily, floss daily, regularly visit your dentist and have a good, balanced diet. All of those things are going to protect you from damaging your teeth and enamel,” says Ana Paula Ferraz-Dougherty, a dentist in San Antonio and consumer adviser for the American Dental Association.

Here are some surprising ways you’re damaging your teeth:


1. Overdoing sugary food and drinks – even cough drops


Forget cookies, cupcakes, and candy. Those are obvious cavity-promoting foods. “Astonishingly enough, even things like throat lozenges can be bad,” says Ruchi Sahoto, a dentist in Fremont, California, and consumer adviser for the ADA. “But we also want to think about where we might be getting other sources of sugar, like sports drinks and not enough water.” (You need water to wash your teeth of the sugar that creates cavities.) The good news is you can help stave off cavities by using toothpaste recommended by your dentist and keeping the sugary snacks to a minimum.

2. Lack of water


Skip the energy drinks, flavored sports waters, and ice teas if you want to dodge cavities. Instead, drink H2O. “Not only is it good to hydrate your body, but it’s good to hydrate your mouth," Sahoto says. "A dry mouth can be an environment where it’s easier for bacteria to cause cavities." Flouride is found in tap water and some bottled water and can ward off tooth decay. “That’s why it’s important to drink as much as possible,” Sahoto says.

3. Nail biting


Get your fingers out of your mouth. When we bite our nails, we put our jaws in a protrusive position, meaning the lower jaw projects out and moves in a repetitive, unnatural way, Sahoto explains. It can cause pain and discomfort in the jaw, plus wear down the enamel on your pearly whites. “It’s also a very common cause for chipped teeth,” Ferraz-Dougherty says. Need to kick the habit? Try using a bitter-tasting nail polish or reducing your stress levels.

4. Heavy brushing


“Brusha, brusha, brusha!” Jan had great intentions in the musical “Grease,” but go easy on your chompers, Sahoto says. “Brushing aggressively can abrade our teeth,” she says. Not only can it strip the teeth of their enamel, promoting cavities and decay, but it can also cause the gums to recede. “That doesn’t look very nice, but it also exposes the roots.” Sahoto says. Think of brushing as a massage for your teeth and gums – gentle strokes will do the trick.

5. Consuming acidic food or drinks


People who have acid reflux or drink lemon water can expect to see damage to their teeth, says Genaro Romo, a dentist in Chicago and consumer adviser for the ADA. “So often, [acidity] is overlooked,” Romo says. Acidic foods can strip the teeth of their natural enamel – the protective coating that blocks cavities and tooth decay. Citric fruits and fruit juices, sparkling water with lemon and even certain salad dressings are so acidic that they can cause the tooth's enamel to erode.

First Published: US News Health

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