If you want your teeth to stay beautiful and healthy for a lifetime, you have to take good care of them. However, there may be many things you do–including some you do that you think might be good for your teeth–that can be damaging your teeth.

Brushing Too Hard

If you brush too hard, you can increase the enamel wear on your teeth, which can lead to increased sensitivity and may lead to broken teeth. It can also irritate gums and is a leading cause of receding gums, along with gum disease.

It’s important to use only a gentle pressure when brushing your teeth. Use a soft-bristled brush, and try to move it in small circles. The motion not only helps the bristles to move along the curved surfaces of your teeth, it prevents you from moving the brush too vigorously.

Using an Abrasive Toothpaste

Toothpaste is designed to help remove food deposits and bacterial plaque, but many toothpastes include abrasive compounds that can wear away your enamel. Not only will this lead to sensitivity as mentioned above, it can also cause your teeth to turn permanently yellow, since it allows the dentin inside your teeth to show through. Abrasiveness is measured using the relative dentin abrasion (RDA) scale. An RDA of 150 or more is considered abrasive, and anything more than 200 is not recommended by the FDA. Here is a list of RDA values for many toothpastes.

Too Many Acidic Foods

Acidic foods can erode your enamel. We’ve talked about this before, but it bears repeating. Check out 5 Tips to Reduce the Damage of Soda on Your Teeth to learn how to combat acidic foods and drinks.

Too Much Teeth Whitening

Many people are addicted to teeth whitening products. Overuse of teeth whitening can lead to tooth damage. As the mildly acidic whiteners can remove enamel, you may even begin to see your teeth stop turning white, but yellow instead as you expose the dentin underneath the enamel. Although professional whitening uses stronger compounds, working with a dentist allows us to supervise your whitening and monitor for enamel damage.

Hot Foods and Cold Drinks

Your teeth are made of a ceramic-like material (that’s why porcelain veneers make such a good match), which has a lot of good properties. However, one problem with ceramics is that they don’t respond well to abrupt changes in temperature. Exposing your teeth to hot then cold then hot then cold can lead to microfractures in the material. These fractures can later turn into larger cracks that can either harbor bacteria or lead to a major break in your teeth.

Using Your Teeth as Tools

Fun fact: fossil evidence shows that Neanderthals had extra-strong muscle attachments in their neck and jaws and teeth wear patterns consistent with using their teeth as pliers or anchors during crafts. Fun fact: you’re not a Neanderthal, so if you want your teeth to last longer than the average Neanderthal life span (about 30 years or so), it’s best not to use your teeth for anything other than what they were meant for: eating and smiling. Don’t use them as icebreakers, nutcrackers, bottle openers, pliers, or scissors.

Not Brushing and Flossing Enough

There are two ways that people don’t brush enough. Either they’re not brushing twice a day and flossing every day, or they’re not brushing for long enough.

Brush twice a day, every day. Floss every day.

It’s also a good idea to floss before you brush, because this can allow the toothpaste to penetrate the area between your teeth with its antibacterial and remineralizing properties.

And don’t forget to brush for a full two minutes. If you’re not sure how long you’re brushing, get a timer or switch to an electric toothbrush that has a built-in timer.

And, of course, don’t forget to make your regular dental visits, twice a year. If you’re overdue for a visit to Dental Excellence of Blue Bell in Philadelphia, please call (610) 272-0828 for an appointment today.