TOOTH ENAMEL RANKS between steel and titanium on the Mohs Hardness Scale. That makes it harder than any other substance in the human body, and it also makes it harder than iron! However, it’s still fairly brittle and very vulnerable to acid erosion, and there are plenty of daily habits we might have that can put it at risk.
#1 This One’s a Nail-Biter (But You Shouldn’t Be)
If you ask most people what the harms of a nail-biting habit are, they’ll probably start with ragged, damaged fingernails, but the effects on teeth and overall oral health can be just as serious, if not more so. Tooth enamel might be harder than keratin (what fingernails are made of), which means enamel is going to win the battle, but over time, keratin will win the war.
Habitual nail-biting can erode, crack, and chip teeth. It can shift them out of proper alignment, resulting in gaps and bad bites. It could even lead to root resorption, or the breakdown of the roots of the teeth! The risk of resorption is also higher in someone with braces. At the same time, the fingernails are the dirtiest part of the hands, and all the dirt and germs under there transfers to the mouth in a nail-biting session. This can lead to gum disease.
#2 Nibbling Sugary Snacks or Sipping Drinks Like Coffee All Day
We all need an energy boost now and then, but make it a habit to quickly finish your sugary drink or treat instead of sipping or snacking on it throughout the day. Allowing sugars to sit in your mouth allows bacteria to feed which creates acid build up in your mouth which in turn erodes your teeth enamel. That's a recipe for a cavity! So bottoms up on that fruit smoothie, gobble up that candy bar, and down that coffee before your meeting. Bonus points for rinsing out your mouth with water right after. Better yet, opt for plain water or a healthy low sugar snack like almonds or fruit to boost your mood.
#3 Brushing Too Hard
Brushing your teeth regularly at least 2x a day is a great habit, but doing it with too much gusto can be a downer on your teeth. Using too much force will wear down your tooth enamel and even harm your sensitive gums. Learning how to gently brush your teeth can be as simple as changing the way holding your toothbrush. Hold it between your fingertips rather than gripping it in your palm to ensure you're not putting too much pressure on your teeth.
#4 Avoid Mouth Breathing Whenever Possible
Thanks to the popular show Stranger Things, “Mouth-Breather” has become a more popular insult in recent years, but there are a lot of good reasons to avoid habitually breathing through your mouth instead of your nose. Mouth breathing can cause a variety of problems, both in the short term and over time:
Lower oxygen levels: nose breathing triggers the production of nitric oxide, a molecule that helps our lungs absorb oxygen. Mouth breathing skips that step, so we can’t get as much out of each breath! That results in less energy for mental and physical tasks.
Dry mouth: the constant airflow in the mouth dries it out, which is a big problem, because saliva is the first line of defense against oral bacteria. Dry mouth leads to chronic bad breath and tooth decay.
Sleep apnea: with habitual mouth breathing comes the increased likelihood of sleep apnea, which makes it difficult to get restful sleep and over time increases the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure.
Altered bone growth: when the mouth is closed, the tongue provides the right pressure for a child’s dental arches and facial bones to develop well. Mouth breathing removes the support structure and leads to narrow arches, flat features, drooping eyes, and a small chin.
Worse orthodontic problems: narrow dental arches are very likely to feature a lot of crowding. In order to make room for the full set of teeth, orthodontic treatment will usually be necessary.
#5 Using Teeth as Tools
It may be a neat party trick to pop open a beer bottle with your teeth, but it can wear, chip and even break your tooth enamel. Even seemingly harmless tasks like tearing open a chip bag, breaking open shelled nuts or holding nails in your mouth, can wear down your teeth over time. Don't treat your teeth as tools as convenient as it seem!
Let’s Break Those Habits!
Whether you’re personally struggling with nail biting, mindless snacking, mouth breathing or you’ve noticed that your child does, we can help! Your dentist or hygienist may also notice signs of wear or significant decay and ask you about your habits. If it's been more than 6 months since your exam and hygiene cleaning, contact us today at (650) 871-1400, firstname.lastname@example.org or request an appointment online.