How daily habits and the latest fashions could be ruining your teeth
Your teeth are strong and able to put up with a lot. This is fortunate, because modern living demands a lot from our chompers. We consume copious amounts of coffee and sugar. We follow mouth-altering fashions. Our diets and lifestyle can damage our teeth in ways we’re not aware of.
So how exactly can your daily habits and face-changing fashions, such as mouth piercings, damage your teeth? And what can you do to maintain a great smile?
Mouth piercings: Are they worth the risk?
Piercing your tongue, lips or cheeks increases the risk of bacterial infection. Infection causes pain and swelling. Serious infections can cause your tongue to swell, obstructing your airways.
Beyond potential infection, there’s the ‘bite risk.’ Playing with or accidentally biting your piercings can scratch and crack your teeth and damage your gums. Damaged gums tend to to bleed and recede.
All that said, we get that mouth piercing is a significant cultural or lifestyle statement for some people. So if this is you, how can you get pierced and protect the health of your teeth?
Proper dental hygiene reduces your risk of all of the nastiness noted above. Brush twice a day using a soft-bristled toothbrush, floss at least once a day, and see your dentist regularly to check for cracks or chips. That way they can be treated as early as possible.
Coffee vs tea
It’s no secret that coffee stains your teeth. This is due to a potent combo of chromogens, tannins, and acids.
- Chromogens stain your enamel (the protective layer covering your teeth).
- Tannins make your teeth more vulnerable to stains.
- Acids erode enamel, making your teeth even more vulnerable to stains.
But what about tea? Surely tea is OK?
On the tea front there’s bad news and better news.
The bad news? Tea contains more tannins than coffee. It can turn your teeth yellow faster.
The better news? Tea is less acidic than coffee. Certain teas (like black and green tea) contain fluoride, which helps prevent tooth decay and include antioxidants that murder plaque-producing bacteria.
Now for the worst news, adding lemon, sugar or honey to your tea is the real killer. Lemon is highly acidic, and sugar and honey can contribute to tooth cavities.
In short, both beverages have their pros and cons. But let’s be honest: you’re not going to stop drinking your preferred brew.
So how do you enjoy tea and coffee and protect your pearly whites?
Beat back the worst of tea and coffee’s woes by:
- drinking your tea or coffee in one sitting, rather than sipping throughout the day
- ditching add-ins like lemon, sugar and honey
- avoiding swishing it around in your mouth
- rinsing your mouth with water after drinking
- brushing your teeth after you finish (but not right away because coffee and tea soften enamel).
Is drinking alcohol bad for your teeth?
Like tea and coffee, alcoholic drinks like red wine and dark beers can stain your chompers. But you know how everyone’s always telling you to drink a glass of water between pints? This is great advice.
Drinking water cleans your teeth and reduces staining. It also keeps you hydrated. When you’re dehydrated, your saliva dries up. This is bad because saliva is one of your mouth’s best defences against bacteria.
Got ice in your drink? Avoid chewing it. Ice can break your teeth. If you must finish your whole drink, including the ice, suck it instead.
Ciggies and vapes
We know smoking cigarettes is bad for your teeth and mouth.
Among other things, smoking:
- gives you bad breath
- turns your teeth yellow
- reduces your mouth’s ability to combat bacteria
- causes gum disease
- causes oral cancer.
There’s nothing good we can say about cigarettes. But what about the increasingly popular practice of vaping?
Well, tar and nicotine in cigarettes cause many of the issues listed above. Vaporisers don’t use tar, so that’s a big difference. You can also buy zero-nicotine e-liquid. But we don’t condone vaping. It’s still potentially damaging to your teeth.
Although vaping hasn’t been around long enough to understand its long-term side effects, the habit of tapping the vape mouthpiece against teeth risks damage. There’s also growing evidence vaping contributes to gum disease and disrupts the balance of bacteria in the mouth.
Gaps, grills and gems
Oral fashion takes many forms.
Tooth gaps have grown in popularity. Thanks to celebrities flaunting their tooth gaps on camera, some people now want a gap of their own.
Some cosmetic dentists (not us!) offer tooth gaps as a surgery option. Giving you a gap means shaving your teeth to make a space. Once you get this material removed, there’s no going or growing back. Shaving slivers off your teeth will most likely make them more sensitive and vulnerable to decay..
A word on DIY dental ‘enhancements’—please don’t
Some highly devoted fashionistas try to give themselves tooth gaps or fangs. We strongly advise against filing your own teeth. Your enamel won’t grow back, and you may end up with sensitive and decay-prone teeth. The only person you should trust to file your teeth is your dentist. And even then it would be for medical reasons, such as making space to relieve crowding.
Grills and tooth gems? Are they safe?
Some cosmetic dentists will fit a single tooth or multiple teeth with gold or silver (often jewel-encrusted) grills.
Grills come with a number of risks.
- Food and debris trapped in a grill can cause bacteria build-up, leading to tooth decay and gum disease.
- The glue used to attach a grill can damage your teeth and gums.
- Grills can ruin your enamel by grinding against opposing teeth.
- You can have an allergic reaction to the metal.
Tooth gems are pieces of jewellery fitted to individual teeth. They pose similar risks to grills.
If you’re after grills or tooth gems, we strongly recommend speaking to your dentist first.
If you do have grills or tooth gems, you can reduce the risk of oral issues by:
- removing them before eating and cleaning your teeth (if possible)
- thoroughly brushing and flossing your teeth
- cleaning your oral jewellery often.
Taking precautions can save your smile
Your daily habits and fashion statements are important personal choices. We only hope you’ll also choose to do whatever you can to protect your teeth.
If you’re in the Yeppoon and Rockhampton area and are thinking about modifying your smile, get in touch. Let’s see how we can help. If you’re worried about the impact fashion or lifestyle choices are having on your teeth and gums, we’d love to help you stay on top of your dental health.
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