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    What Wears Down Your Teeth

    By Sharon Liao
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Michael Friedman, DDS

    Your teeth are made from tough stuff. Their outer layer, the enamel, is the strongest substance in your body. But habits, health conditions, and injuries can lead to wear and tear.

    Learn what you can do to protect your smile from problems like these.

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    Many people consider their smile one of their best assets. But what if you're embarrassed to smile? Chipped, crooked, or discolored teeth can do more than ruin a picture-perfect moment. "Beauty is based on symmetry, and having teeth that are asymmetrical, crowded, or misshapen throws off that symmetry," says Kellee N. Stanton, DDS, who has a practice in Eagan, Minn. She says misaligned teeth even keep some people from achieving their personal and professional goals. What do you do if you're unhappy...

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    Grinding and Clenching

    Your teeth are meant to bite down and chew, but too much of it can cause damage.

    “In the long-term, the friction can wear away at enamel and fracture fillings,” says Kimberly Harms, DDS, a spokeswoman for the American Dental Association.

    Your dentist might call this bruxism, and it affects millions of adults. It can happen during the day or while you sleep. A few things may cause it:

    • Stress and anxiety. They can trigger it, or make it worse.
    • Teeth alignment. The way they line up may cause grinding.
    • Medicines. Some antidepressants can lead to it.
    • Sleep apnea. Treat the apnea and the grinding may end.

    Awareness is your first line of defense against grinding and clenching.

    “I know from personal experience that you can grind your teeth without even realizing it,” Harms says.

    If you notice yourself doing it, rub your tongue behind your front teeth, or place the tip between your teeth. 

    Tell your doctor and dentist if you have headaches or facial or jaw pain, tightness, or soreness. If stress is the cause, do some relaxing activities: Exercise, spend time with friends, or take a few deep breaths.

    If you grind your teeth at night, your dentist may recommend a mouth guard. Your doctor may also prescribe a muscle relaxer. He may want to keep track of your sleep to check for a sleep disorder.

    Chipped, Fractured, or Broken Teeth

    Those problems can stem from heavy force or pressure, says Eugene Antenucci, DDS, a clinical assistant professor at the NYU College of Dentistry. 

    It can happen when you bite down on a hard food or object, like a piece of crusty bread, ice, or pens. Impact from sports or accidents can also damage your teeth. Sports injuries account for up to 39% of dental injuries in children. 

    How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

    Number of Days Per Week I Floss

    Get the latest Oral Health newsletter delivered to your inbox!


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    You are currently

    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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