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We all know how important it is to regularly brush and floss to keep our teeth and gums healthy. But most of us don't think about how our other daily habits — from the food and beverages we consume to our routine activities — can impact the long-term health of our pearly whites.
Steer clear of these eight routine habits that can harm your teeth — and aim for healthier options instead. Your teeth will thank you.
- Eating sticky, sugary treats. Sugary treats promote tooth decay, and chewy candies like gummies can stick around in your teeth for hours.
Healthier habit: Eat candy with meals instead of as a separate snack. Your mouth produces more saliva when you eat meals, helping rinse away sticky, sugary residue.
- Drinking soda and sports drinks. Similar to sweet treats, soda and sports drinks are loaded with sugar that leave a coat of acid on the enamel of your teeth.
Healthier habit: Stay hydrated with sugar-free and calorie-free fresh water.
- Smoking or chewing tobacco. Cigarettes and tobacco products can stain teeth, cause gum disease and periodontal disease, and even lead to decayed and lost teeth.
Healthier habit: Talk to your doctor about creating a plan to help you quit.
- Opening packages or other items with your teeth. It might seem convenient at the time, but using your teeth as a tool can cause them to chip or crack.
Healthier habit: Use your hands, a bottle opener or scissors instead.
- Playing contact sports without a mouth guard. A hit to the mouth during a big game can lead to loose, chipped or even lost teeth.
Healthier habit: Purchase a self-fitting mouth guard that conforms to your bite or talk to your dentist about a custom-made mouth guard.
- Chewing on ice, pens and pencils. You may not even be aware of the urge to chomp while you're concentrating, but this habit can cause teeth to crack or chip, and can even irritate soft tissue inside teeth.
Healthier habit: Reach for sugarless gum the next time you feel the urge to chew.
- Grinding teeth. Stress and sleeping habits are common causes of teeth grinding, which wear teeth down over time.
Healthier habit: Wear a mouth guard at night to protect teeth and reduce mouth pain.
- Brushing too hard. Using bristles that are too firm or brushing aggressively can damage teeth and irritate gums.
Healthier habit: Gently massage your teeth and gums with a soft bristled toothbrush that carries the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
More healthy habits to live by
In addition to eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water and brushing and flossing regularly, visit your dentist twice a year for a routine check-up and cleaning to help keep your teeth and gums healthy. Remember that your CareCredit card* provides a convenient way to pay for care not covered by insurance. Use the Provider Locator to find a nearby dentist who accepts your CareCredit card.