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15 Ways to Wreck Your Teeth

To make your teeth last a lifetime, don't do these things.

6. Grind Away.

Some people clench or grind their teeth when bored, lifting something heavy or stressed; others do it while they sleep. Tooth-to-tooth clenching can wear down teeth and “make you look 10 to 20 years older,” King says.

Grinding also paves the way for cavities. “Aside from causing pressure and fractures, grinding wears away the top layer of enamel and the lower levels of enamel beyond the dentin, which can lead to decay,” Gross says. Can’t stop? Get fitted for a mouthguard.

7. Guzzle Soda, Sports Drinks, and Fruit Juices.

Soda and sports drinks often have either too much sugar or, in the case of diet soda, too much acid. Fruit juices often contain sugar but compared to soda and sports drinks, are “a healthier choice” and water is even better yet, Gross says. 

8. Drink Lots of Red Wine, Coffee, or Tea.

The surface of stained teeth is like sandpaper and attracts more bacteria, which can indirectly lead to tooth decay.

As wine editor for Dish magazine, Yvonne Lorkin of Christchurch, New Zealand, tastes thousands of wines each year. At 37, she spends more on dental upkeep than people twice her age.

“The constant onslaught of acid on my enamel is an occupational hazard, I guess, as we're swilling the wines around in our mouths rather than just swallowing,” Lorkin tells WebMD in an email interview. 

Aside from cutting back, Gross recommends using a straw, when possible, so staining liquids bypass your teeth.

9. Whiten Too Often.

Chronic whitening or failing to follow instructions can lead to gum irritation and increased tooth sensitivity. Desensitizing toothpaste can help. 

If you have very sensitive teeth, gum disease, or worn enamel, “your dentist may discourage whitening,” says Charles H. Perle, DMD, FAGD, a dentist in Jersey City, N.J. and a spokesman for the AGD. Check before starting any whitening treatment.

10. Drink Bottled Water.

Most bottled water has little or no fluoride and most home filtration systems filter much of it out. Stick with fluoridated tap water since it’s “the most cost-effective way to prevent cavities and fight tooth decay,” Perle says. If your water isn’t fluoridated, your dentist may prescribe fluoride supplements.

11. Get Your Tongue Pierced.

When you speak, your tongue moves to make certain sounds and consequently “you’re jamming the metal piercing into your teeth,” Gross says. Fractured teeth may require veneers or crowns in a patient who otherwise doesn’t have other issues.

Jason Lazarus, CEO of Gadgets and Gear in Hauppauge, N.Y., got his tongue pierced and admits he played with it “all the time.” Lazarus says he was shocked when X-rays showed his front teeth “dramatically shaved and chipped” and immediately took his tongue ring out.

“I didn’t want my teeth to get worse,” Lazarus says. He has since spent $2,000 on laminates for his two front upper teeth.

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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