Ask your Kenmore dentist if your Dental Habits are Harming your Teeth
As an educator in the North Seattle dental community, Dr. Emerson and her team at North Seattle Restorative & Preventative Dentistry strive to provide the community and their patients with information and education that will help them take good care of their teeth while they’re between dental appointments.
Here are five dental habits which cause damage to teeth that you may not have thought are harmful.
1. Chewing on ice is one of the worst habits for teeth because of the extremely damaging thermal effect of the cold temperature of ice paired with the heavy mechanical force of biting a hard surface until it breaks. We can exert a great deal of bite force by our teeth — up to 160+ pounds of pressure has been well documented. When chewing ice, the hard enamel and soft internal dentin shrink at different thermal coefficients. The outer hard enamel shrinks more than the inner soft dentin when teeth are bathed in ice water, and this condition makes it easy for teeth to create enough stress to cause tooth fractures when the pounds of pressure crush the ice. When this happens, the cracks in the tooth’s outer layer progress quickly. This result is called “crack propagation” which produces “incomplete vertical fractures.” These fracture lines are common, and when the cracks reach the inner nerve pulp, a root canal is needed. Most adults have at least one root canal – even those patients who take good care of their teeth.
But those patients seeking only short-term dentistry and who opt for the least expensive and conservative in-lays or on-lays (which treat cavities with soft composites or amalgam fillings that don’t standup well) create costly and less comfortable dental options for themselves in the future. Over time and with these habits, most of these dental patients who opted for cheaper materials and procedures have to transition their dental care to the most aggressive tooth restorations (such as full coverage restorations or crowns) to hold teeth together while preventing splits and fractures within the dentin cores of their teeth. Those patients with the worst condition of minimally treated crack propagation will lose their teeth and need implants or dentures to eat normal foods.
To re-cap: freezing temperatures make teeth more prone to cracking under the pressure of chewing hard cold objects such as ice. This creates biomechanics failure in the form of fractured teeth. The result of chewing ice is known to be the most common cause of tooth loss.
2. Do you play sports without a soft-impact mouth guard? This is habit that has an easy fix. Slim bite guards are helpful, but fitted guards are even better at preventing cracked teeth or knocked out teeth when impacting with a ball, or the ground, or worse, with another player. Trauma is one of the most common destructive causes of tooth loss in youth. The fact that most professional football players now use mouth guards (despite the inconvenience) tells you quite a lot regarding the topic of mouth guards!
3. Drinking juice or milk without brushing before bedtime is harmful for the teeth of adults as well as children. While we sleep, our body functions slow down and saliva flow is at its lowest, so sugars from the bedtime snack stay on our teeth. The hours while we sleep is the time in a day that our teeth are most vulnerable to decay.
Using bedtime bottles with milk or juice for young children is bad for the same reasons. It hurts us as parents to hear our child crying for the comfort of a bottle, but letting your baby fall asleep with a bottle in his or her mouth bathes their teeth in sugars overnight. This sets your child on the path for tooth decay and needing a great deal of dentistry at a very early age. This is one of those times that it is better to let a child cry – rather than for you to cry later with the cost of dentistry to rebuild your child’s mouth! And that rebuilding of their mouth would probably make the child cry along with you anyway, although for different reasons.
4. “Bruxism” or the intense clenching/grinding of teeth is a common habit, and it is very destructive to teeth. This habit is a muscle reflex, and our body increases the habit when stressed or lacking sleep. You can wear a bite-guard (mouth guard) at night to protect your teeth from the progression of vertical fractures and traumatic occlusion. You can also slow down the damage caused by this habit by paying attention to what your jaw is doing during the day to .
Usually it is normal for the aging process to wear teeth down over time, but this wear is much more gradual than that caused by intense clenching or grinding of teeth.
5. You might be surprised by this one: cough drops are filled with sugar and can intensify an active decay process. While they may seem healthy because they’re in the medicine aisle, only a few sugar-free cough drops are available. If you need to use lozenges to sooth your throat, make sure you use sugar-free drops and then use water to rinse and/or floss your teeth afterward. Chewing xylitol gum for 10 minutes can also be helpful.