Are you wrecking your teeth without even knowing it? If you suck your thumb or suck on lemons, you’re doing your pearly whites wrong. And did you know that biting your nails is not only bad for your fingers, it can actually hurt your teeth, too?
While some of these dental health “don’ts” can do immediate damage to your teeth (by cracking or breaking them), the effects of others may add up over time, harming your dental health in the long run. So put all 10 of these bad habits to rest — for your teeth’s sake.
Thumbs Down on Thumb Sucking
Children who still suck their fingers or thumbs after their permanent teeth start coming in — usually around the age of 5 or 6 — could be causing permanent changes that affect tooth and jaw structure. Specifically, thumb sucking can cause a misalignment of the teeth, explains Richard Price, DMD, a retired dentist from the Boston area who is a consumer advisor and spokesperson for the American Dental Association. This misalignment can lead to a number of issues, including difficulty chewing and breathing problems — so help wean your child off his thumb.
Lay Off the Lemons
People who suck lemons may be putting their dental health in jeopardy. Why? Lemons are very acidic, says Elisa Mello, DDS, a cosmetic dentist at NYC Smile Design in New York City. “The acidity corrodes the enamel [of the teeth].” Repeated exposure to acidic substances can cause tooth enamel to erode, creating a rough texture on the surface of your teeth, adds Dr. Price.
Don’t Brush Too Hard
Brushing your teeth regularly is part of good oral hygiene, but if you brush too vigorously, you can cause more harm than good. Brushing your teeth too hard can wear down enamel, irritate your gums, make your teeth sensitive to cold, and even cause cavities. To avoid these problems, Price recommends using a soft bristled toothbrush. “Just look for the letters ADA [American Dental Association] on the box, which means the bristles are firm enough to remove plaque, but soft enough not to cause damage,” he advises.
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