Your teeth are pretty amazing. They’re great at what they do and with proper care they can last a lifetime.

But sometimes, misinformation, confusion, and even good intentions can lead you astray when it comes to caring for your teeth. In today’s post you’ll learn about a few of the things you should never do to your teeth — and what can happen if you do.

Use them as tools

Your teeth are there help you eat and speak. Your teeth aren’t tools to open bottles, cut fishing line or sewing thread, or act as a 3rd hand to hold hairpins. Anything you put into your mouth that shouldn’t be there is a potential source of damage to your teeth, tongue, and gums.

The effects of using your teeth as tools can add up over time. Did you know that tailors who hold a sewing needle between their teeth can eventually develop what’s known as a tailor’s notch. It’s a little groove in their front teeth, worn down over time by the seemingly harmless act of biting down on a sewing needle.

Don’t Forget: Keep a close eye on kids who might be tempted to put anything they can find into their mouths. Damage to baby teeth can be serious and affect the health of a child’s gums and jawbone, as well as the alignment of their adult teeth.

Brush with anything but a soft brush

This one’s easy. Just use a SOFT toothbrush. It’s all you need to keep your teeth clean. Stiffer bristles can irritate your gums and remove enamel. There’s simply no need to use anything but a soft-bristled brush.

Chew ice or crunch hard foods

Your teeth are incredibly strong. The enamel (white shiny exterior) of your teeth is the hardest substance in the human body. But that doesn’t mean your teeth are invincible. Chomping down on ice or hard foods can lead to chips, cracks, and even complete tooth fractures.

Many times when a tooth completely fractures, it’s not a sudden event. Instead a small chip or crack has weakened the tooth, maybe days, weeks, months, or even years before. During your regular checkups and x-rays, your dentist will keep an eye out for potential problem areas and can help strengthen a tooth with a filling or dental bond.

Sometimes even soft foods can hide a hard (and painful) surprise. Be especially careful when eating:

  • Mixed nuts
  • Olives
  • Beans or lentils
  • Popcorn
  • Chips or extra hard crackers
  • Cherries, peaches — anything with a pit
  • Bone-in cuts of meat

Bite your fingernails

Your fingernails are softer than your teeth. But you still shouldn’t bite them. It takes a surprising amount of force for your teeth to bite through your fingernails. Overtime, this exertion can actually cause your teeth to shift and become misaligned. The sharp edges of jagged nails can cause cuts to your gum tissue and may allow infection to take root.

Ignore pain

Do you have a little toothache? If it persists for more than a couple of days, it’s worth getting looked at. A mild toothache can be like a check-engine light for your mouth. You don’t want to ignore it. Toothaches can progress and what was a little irritating can become very painful — often on a weekend, when you’re on vacation, or some other equally inconvenient time.

Just get it checked out. You’ll be glad you did, especially if you a catch a tiny cavity early. It’ll likely be easy to fix with a composite filling and you might not need a more invasive treatment like a root canal and crown.

Here’s what to look out for:

  • Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
  • Pain when chewing
  • Constant soreness
  • Red and inflamed gums

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your dentist.

Brush too soon after a meal

Being consistent with your brushing and flossing routine is awesome. It’s one of the best things you can do to take care of your teeth. But it is possible to overdo it — a common mistake people make is brushing too soon after a meal.

When you eat, you often end up with an acidic mouth that needs time to buffer and neutralize. This is the job of your saliva. If you brush right away, you’ll be scrubbing off weakened enamel from your teeth. That can make them more susceptible to cavities and decay.

The best thing to do is to wait at least 30 minutes to brush to allow for natural mineralization of your tooth enamel. If you’re worried about your breath or food stuck in between your teeth, rinse your mouth with tap water, floss gently, or try a sugar-free breath mint.

Smoke or use tobacco products — even vaping!

There is absolutely no safe way to smoke or use chewing tobacco. It’s awful for your teeth and gums, not to mention the rest of your body. Recently however, vaping is becoming distressingly common, especially among teens. It’s too early to know the full effects of vaping and e-cigarettes, but it’s best to avoid them altogether.

Use charcoal toothpaste

Charcoal toothpaste is a fast-growing Instagram health trend. People see social media posts about whitening their teeth with messy black gunk and can’t seem to stop themselves from trying it.

But is it a good idea?

Nope. Charcoal is much more abrasive than toothpaste and can really irritate your gums and wear away at the enamel of your teeth, especially if you’re brushing too hard.

Remember, don’t try everything you see on social media. In fact, talk to your dentist about cures, detoxes, or DIY dental treatments that you’ve seen online. You’ll learn the science (or lack thereof) behind them and find out if they’re safe for you to try.

Take your teeth for granted

Above all else, remember: you only get 1 set of adult teeth, so don’t take them for granted. Treat your teeth well and you have a good chance to keep your teeth healthy for life.

What You SHOULD Do: Schedule an appointment at Timberhill Dental

We’re here to help you care for your teeth and provide expert advice on how to keep them strong and healthy. Schedule your appointment today and take control of your dental health.