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The habits that cause dental problems

Everyone wants to do all they can to keep their teeth fit and healthy for life, with healthy teeth we look good, can eat what we want and ultimately healthy teeth cost us less at the dentist. There are however a series of habits which can cause a range of dental problems, this blog post is dedicated to those habits and helping you understand some of the problems that these habits can cause.

Smoking

Yes, you guessed it were going to ask you to give up smoking! Without mentioning the risk of oral cancer, smoking fundamentally changes the fine balance of pH level in your mouth. Your mouth should ideally be at a neutral pH 7, this balance is kept because the bacteria which naturally reside in your mouth excrete acid as they digest their food, this acid naturally reduces the pH level and your saliva counterbalances this by being alkaline. If you smoke,  your mouth will be dry and the saliva cannot neutralise the acid, this means your teeth are bathed in a more acidic environment which can be more prone to tooth decay.

Smoking after tooth extraction

As well as altering the fine balance of acid and alkaline in your mouth smoking also tends to prevent healing. A research paper By a Consultant Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon [1] on this subject states that,

Tobacco affects postoperative wound healing following surgical and nonsurgical tooth extractions, routine maxillofacial surgeries, implants, and periodontal therapies. In an experimental study, bone regeneration after distraction osteogenesis was found to be negatively affected by smoking. Thus, tobacco, a peripheral vasoconstrictor, along with its products like nicotine increases platelet adhesiveness, raises the risk of microvascular occlusion, and causes tissue ischemia

The research showed that because tobacco restricts blood vessels the healing process is not as effective as it is in non-smokers.

Thumbsucking

Thumbsucking can act like an orthodontic appliance. Whilst your teeth are generally stable in your mouth it doesn’t take much pressure to move them, if this pressure is continuous. Prolonged thumbsucking can put pressure on the inside of your teeth pushing outwards.

The effects of thumbsucking

Thumbsucking pushes the top teeth forwards creating a ‘buck teeth’ look, clinically called an anterior open bite. If this has happened from a very young age it can be extremely difficult to correct as the thumb pushes on the palate of the mouth and actually moves the bone as well as the teeth. It may not always be possible to simply push the teeth back to where they were before if the underlying bone structure has also been moved. The thumb sucking habit should ideally be broken as early in your child’s development as possible to prevent this bone movement.

The British Orthodontic Society have written a useful information sheet on thumbsucking. You can download this information sheet here.

Thumbsucking treatment

Thumbsucking appliance

Image source: https://dentagama.com/news/thumb-sucking-appliances

There are various thumb sucking treatment appliances available. Thumb sucking appliances such as these prevent the child creating a seal with their thumb, this means the sucking action has no force behind it and therefore the pressure cannot be put on the teeth and bone.

Brushing teeth excessively

Brushing your teeth twice a day is recommended by virtually every dentist, when this is coupled with  cleaning in between your teeth with either floss or an interdental brush and regular fluoride mouthwash in between brushing you stand the highest chance of maintaining excellent oral hygiene… However, you can go too far.

Your gums are resilient however I can only stand so much brushing. If you over brush your gums can begin to recede, this can give you the effect of looking ‘long in the tooth’. If you continue to brush the same area too much then as the gum pulls away it can reveal the softer dentine/root part of your tooth (usually hidden underneath the gum). Because this is softer it is more susceptible to damage from excessive brushing.

The following image clearly shows the gum which has receded from the teeth, you can see the darker (and softer) roots becoming exposed.

Gum recession

Image source: http://www.gumrecession.com/thinfragile.html

Brushing teeth excessively can wear away the enamel on the outer surface of your tooth, once this has been done and the softer denting has been exposed the wear will increase.

The effects of excessive toothbrushing

Image source: http://www.smileartsny.com/main-reasons-gum-recession/

How to brush your teeth

If you are experiencing either of that this use above we highly recommend purchasing an electric toothbrush with a pressure sensor. Many Modern electric toothbrushes have pressure sensors which let you know if you are pressing too hard, this can be one of the easiest ways to prevent excessive toothbrushing, especially as these toothbrushes have a timer.

When you brush your teeth, always keep the toothbrush at a 45° angle to your teeth, this is the optimum angle to keep your teeth clean.

 

Teeth grinding (bruxism)

Teeth grinding, otherwise known as bruxism is a common way to damage your teeth. Grinding teeth in your sleep is extremely common. The causes can be many, including stress & bite problems. Grinding teeth not only affects your teeth but can also lead to headaches as the muscles which power your jaw become tired and overworked.

Wearing a night mouthguard can help prevent teeth grinding, these work because your teeth cannot fit together, the mouthguard provides a smooth surface so your teeth slide over one another and it becomes impossible to grind. This means you will wake up in the morning and your muscles around your jaw, neck and head will have relaxed. This can have a significant effect not only on very affects of tooth grinding but on any associated headaches.

Using teeth as tools

Yes, some people use their teeth to open beer bottles, and guess what, the teeth break! Your teeth are designed to eat, please don’t use them for anything else.

Drinking too much sugar

This is the final one in our list, drinking too much sugar feeds the bacteria in your mouth. The bacteria love sugar and when they digestive they excrete acid and this acid attacks your teeth causing dental decay. The secret to having healthy teeth is to combine an excellent oral health care routine with a suitably matched diet. The sugar comes from many sources, not just added refined sugar, so it’s good to be aware of your complete sugar intake throughout the day.

 

[1]  Tobacco smoking and surgical healing of oral tissues: a review. Balaji SM1 2008 Oct-Dec;19(4):344-8.

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