SEE ALSO: Brush up on Your Oral Health Resolutions
Five common lifestyle habits that damage the teeth:
- 01Increased intake of acidic food and drink – This can include but is not restricted to citric and acidic fruits and juices, fizzy drinks including sparkling water, vinegar and excessive alcohol consumption. These damaging foods and drinks lead to a condition known as acid erosion which is characterized by thinning and destruction of the top layer of the tooth, known as the enamel. The condition is non-reversible. The enamel is very strong but over time when subjected to all these acidic products degenerates and thins out exposing the inside of the tooth (which can also in turn be damaged) and this can lead to an increase in sensitivity and pain symptoms as well as increased susceptibility to decay. It also weakens the tooth.
- 02Grinding and clenching teeth – This is a habit which is increasing steadily and seen much more frequently in many patients who present to us. There are many complex factors which lead patients to grind or clench their teeth and we see it more frequently at times of anxiety and stress. Other factors that play a role are genetics, arthritic changes in the bone and changes in the cartilage of the jaw joint, anatomy and muscular attachments, trauma, etc. Unfortunately, many patients who suffer from this condition are unaware of it and don’t realize they grind or clench (as they are usually doing it subconsciously or in their sleep) until they are informed by a clinician that there are signs of this in their mouth. If left unchecked, this condition can lead to a variety of problems and symptoms for the patient including thinning and wear of the teeth, jaw and muscular pain and headaches, difficulty in opening the mouth and chewing and cracking of the teeth.
- 03Overbrushing teeth – This is usually coupled with the use of a hard toothbrush and/or an abrasive toothpaste. This leads to a condition known as abrasion. Abrasion is characterized by recession of the gum line where the overbrushing takes place and when left unchecked leads to an eventual formation of cavities at the neck of the tooth known as abrasion cavities. These can lead to severe symptoms of pain and sensitivity and it is often necessary to restore these teeth with a filling material to reduce the symptoms and effects of the abrasion. Occasionally, if the abrasion has been occurring for several years, gum surgery may be necessary to correct the recession of the gums.
- 04Using non-fluoride toothpaste – The use of non-fluoride toothpaste is becoming more and more popular across the world owing to some negative advertising about the effects of fluoride on the body. Fluoride in very large doses can be toxic and can cause systemic problems however the amount of fluoride in toothpaste is minimal and is nowhere near those threshold doses.
- 05Smoking – Smoking has a well-known adverse effect on the general health. However, what is less well known is that smoking is directly linked to the progression of gum disease. Gum disease is a very loose term used to describe any disease that affects the supporting structures of the tooth, namely the gums and bone. If left untreated gum disease progresses to a form of the disease known as advanced periodontitis which is characterized by significant bone loss and the loosening of the teeth. There are of course other factors that cause gum disease, mainly poor oral hygiene, however smoking has been linked directly with the progression of gum disease and the disease effects appear to be multiplied in patients who smoke.
Helpful prevention tips and replacement options:
- Awareness of the condition
- Physiotherapy exercises
- Reduction in local factors contributing to grinding such as high fillings
- Construction of a bite guard or shield which can also act as a de-programmer to reduce the effect of grinding
- Occasionally a referral to a physiotherapist may be necessary.
● The effects of abrasion can be reduced by changing the hardness of the toothbrush you are using to a soft or medium toothbrush. The finer the bristles the less abrasive they are. There is a fine line between overbrushing and ineffective brushing and this needs to be pointed out to you by your dentist or hygienist. The mode of brushing also needs to be altered from a scrubbing motion to a softer round or sweeping motion. If you are using an abrasive toothpaste (some whitening toothpastes are extremely abrasive) then consider changing to a milder, less damaging one.