Most of us know the habits that are good for our teeth – brushing well, flossing regularly and never skipping dental check ups. However, there are some habits that seem unrelated to dental health but could still lead to gum disease or tooth decay.
Here are some surprising things that be damaging your teeth without you knowing.
1. Working out a lot
Exercising regularly is a key part of staying healthy. Fitness has numerous benefits, however playing sports or hitting the gym could have a negative effect on your teeth, even causing tooth decay. There are two main reasons behind this:
- Breathing through the mouth
When breathing hard during a workout, most people start sucking in air through their mouth which can dry up your saliva. Humble spit has an important role in protecting teeth, so with a dry mouth, you're more at risk for problems like tooth decay.
- Sugary energy drinks
Sports drinks aimed at athletes can provide electrolytes and hydration, but they are also highly acidic and loaded with sugar. Combined, these factors can erode enamel and cause lasting damage to teeth. The issue with these kinds of drinks is that they are sometimes marketed as 'better' than soft drinks, so some sports players may not be aware of the toll they can take on oral health.
These issues are usually only an issue for athletes or people who train frequently at high intensity. To enjoy all the benefits of working out without compromising the health of your teeth, you can drink water or coconut water in place of sugary sports drinks. Sipping your drink throughout your workout can help keep saliva flowing and the dreaded dry mouth at bay. To further protect your teeth, it can also help to breathe through your nose as much as you can.
Going to sleep with your mouth hanging open is reportedly as bad as sipping fizzy drinks.
2. Sleeping with your mouth open
Going to sleep with your mouth hanging open is reportedly as bad for your teeth as sipping fizzy drinks according to one study.
Some people don't even realise they are dozing off with their mouth open. Others breathe through their mouth while sleeping to account for a bad cold that has blocked their nose. Whatever the reason, if you regularly sleep with your mouth open, you may want to reassess your sleeping habits.
Research has shown that mouth breathing could lead to enamel erosion and cavities, explains Joanne Choi, who headed the study at the University of Otago. Sleeping with your mouth open raises the acidity levels in your mouth, to the point where enamel starts to demineralise – potentially causing as much damage as soft drinks. The study found that the pH could fall as low as 3.6 when people breathed through their mouths as they sleep. Enamel starts to suffer when the pH gets below 5.5.
The acidity is caused by a drier mouth, which means saliva can't do its job and regulate the pH. The result could be more plaque, tooth decay and gum disease.
3. Clenching your teeth from stress
Gritting your teeth is a common tactic for getting through tough situations. It can damage your teeth, though, so if you are doing this regularly you should try deep breathing instead.
If you regularly clench or grind your teeth from stress, you could run the risk of fracturing, loosening, or wearing them down. If this is something you notice yourself doing, it might be beneficial to explore different relaxation techniques to help deal with stress in alternative ways, such as by doing yoga.
Unfortunately, it's not always that straightforward. For a lot of people, stress-related tooth-grinding, or bruxism, occurs during the night. Because they often don't realise they are doing it, it can be hard to treat. Signs that you might be grinding your teeth at night include a sore and tired jaw, and neck, head, and earaches.
The best way to deal with excessive teeth clenching and grinding at night is to consult your dentist to ask about fitting a mouthguard.
If you feel the urge to chomp on something while concentrating, pop some sugar-free gum in your mouth.
4. Chewing on your pen
Many people unconsciously gnaw on the tip of their pen when they are deep in thought. Over time, this habit puts pressure on teeth and can eventually cause them to chip or crack.
The same goes for putting any hard object between your teeth. As well as chewing pencils, some people nervously nibble on their nails while others hold their sunglasses in their mouths.
If you feel the urge to chomp on something while concentrating, or to calm your nerves, pop some sugar-free gum in your mouth. Not only can you chew on it harmlessly, but it will stimulate saliva, which is great for protecting enamel.
As the dental health experts, we are here to help you with any oral health issues. If you have any concerns about your teeth, make an appointment and come and see us.