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Do you have these 5 bad dental habits?

Our teeth can last a lifetime, if they are looked after properly.

It also helps to avoid bad dental habits like these five:

Crunching, sucking and sipping

You finish an ice-cold drink and then crunch, crunch, crunch the leftover ice. What's the harm? The brittleness and cold temperature of ice cubes can actually cause teeth to fracture. Or they can cause microscopic cracks in the surface of the enamel, which could lead to bigger dental problems over time. Crushed ice is less harmful than bigger cubes, but it still doesn't get the blessing of most dentists.

Right up there with ice cubes are popcorn kernels, which can also put undue stress on a tooth and cause it to fracture. Some people also try to crack nuts such as walnuts or hazel nuts with their teeth, which can be equally hazardous to teeth.

Sipping sugary drinks throughout the day is another bad habit, research suggests. The constant exposure to sweet and acidic beverages can foster tooth decay.

Be mindful of these practices when you eat or drink. Swap to crushed ice in drinks, or better still, substitute something that’s healthier to chew, such as baby carrots. Sip drinks through a straw to minimise contact with your teeth. Make sure that the straw is positioned toward the back of the mouth, not resting against your teeth.

Using teeth as tools

Dentists report that patients rely on their teeth for a number of odd jobs: to tear open a bag of crisps, uncap a bottle of nail varnish, pull out a watch stem, straighten a bent fork tine, or rip a price tag off a piece of clothing. This can be hard on your teeth, traumatising them or causing the edge of a weakened tooth to chip off or even break.

Think about what you are putting in your mouth before you use your teeth as tools, and keep simple, real tools such as scissors and pliers handy to do the work so you can maintain good dental health.

Grinding your teeth

Whether you grind your teeth during the day, at night, or both, it wears them down. Often teeth grinding (bruxism) is a nervous habit, reflecting anxiety.

Your dentist may suggest wearing a mouth guard for teeth grinding at night. Custom models made by your dentist cost more than over-the-counter ones, but they generally fit better and work better, too. Sometimes, it helps simply to be aware that you are grinding your teeth and find another way to disperse the nervous energy or deal with the anxiety.

Using a hard-bristled toothbrush

Some people think the firmer the toothbrush, the better. This isn’t so, especially for older adults. With age, the gums push back and the roots of the teeth become exposed, often increasing sensitivity. The root is covered with cementum, which is worn away more easily than enamel. A brush with too-firm bristles may irritate the gums and lead to sensitive teeth.

Ask your dentist or hygienist what toothbrush might be best to maintain your dental health, depending on your individual gum and tooth problems.

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