Beyond Sugar: Other Common Habits That Worsen Tooth Decay

When you ask people to name something that's bad for their teeth, most people will either say "eating sugar" or "not brushing." But while it's true that avoiding sugar and brushing daily are important for dental health, these are not the only secrets to strong, cavity-free teeth. Here are some other common habits that may sabotage your dental health if you're not careful.

Clenching your jaw.

When you're feeling anxious or stressed, pay attention to what you do with your jaw. Many people unknowingly clench their jaw and teeth when they're under stress. This can lead to cracks in the enamel. Existing fillings may crack or pop out of your teeth. If you grind your teeth from side to side, too, you may also wear away some of the enamel, making cavities more likely.

To break this habit, consider carrying around a stress ball. You can squeeze the ball whenever you feel on-edge or notice yourself clenching your jaw.

Drinking coffee and tea.

Even if you don't put a lot of sugar in your coffee or tea, sipping one of these beverages all day is not the best thing for your teeth. For one thing, dark-colored liquids stain your teeth. This is mostly a cosmetic issue, but since these beverages are also acidic, they can also weaken the enamel over time.

There's no reason to give up your morning cup of coffee, but if you're more of a 6-cup-a-day drinker, you should look into cutting back so your teeth are not exposed to so much acid. Another option is to drink your coffee or tea through a straw. This may make you look a little silly, but it causes the liquid to bypass your teeth and land directly on your tongue.

Using the wrong dental devices and products.

Many people use toothbrushes that are too stiff and apply too much pressure when they brush. This wears away some of the tooth enamel, making you more prone to cavities. To amend this issue, buy an ADA-approved toothbrush that is labeled "soft." Also, look over your other dental devices and products to make sure they are ADA-approved. Toothpastes that don't carry this label may not have as many benefits. For instance, they might not contain fluoride that helps strengthen your tooth enamel.

Click here for more info on properly caring for your teeth and avoiding habits that could sabotage your dental health, or speak to your local dentist or dental hygienist.