When it comes to what wears the crown as reigning heavyweight champion, no part of the body can withstand the type of daily beating as your teeth sustain. By practicing quality oral hygiene, you can ensure that your teeth remain healthy and strong for a lifetime. But while your teeth rank as the strongest part of the body, the daily wear and tear of grinding, gnashing, brushing, and chewing do take their tool. Here are the three biggest threats to the health of your teeth, and what you can do to avoid them.
Broken, Cracked, or Chipped Teeth
While your teeth can become chipped, cracked, or broken by biting down on a popcorn kernel or stale piece of bread, these types of injuries are actually fairly uncommon. When they do occur, it usually happens to a tooth that contains a filling or that recently underwent a root canal. Both procedures have the potential to weaken the structure of a tooth, making it more susceptible to cracking when biting down on something hard.
However, these types of dental injuries occur most often as a result of a sports injury or accident. A recent survey of athletes that participated in the Pan American World Games found that nearly half of all participants had suffered some degree of tooth fracture, most of which occurred during the course of training for the games. While contact sports such as karate, basketball, and boxing had the highest prevalence of tooth fracture, researchers also found that athletes who participated in non-contact sports like skiing or skating also suffered from frequent damage.
To help reduce your risk of suffering from a broken or cracked tooth, you should focus on avoiding any extremely hard foods if you have to fill in your back molars. If you play a sport that presents the risk of you suffering head trauma, always wear a mouth guard to protect the health of your teeth. While your dentist can easily repair teeth that have become chipped, fractured teeth may need to be removed if the crack extends below the gum line. So better safe than sorry.
More commonly referred to as teeth grinding, bruxism often occurs as an unconscious habit brought on by excessive stress. While teeth grinding might seem more annoying than potentially harmful, prolonged cases of bruxism can slowly wear down your teeth’s enamel, causing small cracks to appear, which increases your risk of developing decay and gum disease.
In addition to damaging tooth enamel, bruxism also causes jaw injury, muscle pain, and frequent headaches. Since most people with bruxism grind their teeth at night, they are often unaware they suffer from the condition until a loved one tells them they can hear them grinding away as they sleep.
A recent study found that individuals who grind their teeth at night were more likely to report physical problems, daily problems dealing with stress, or trouble at work when compared with those who don’t suffer from nighttime bruxism.
By scheduling regular appointments with your dentist, you can receive dental checkups that allow your dentist to examine the health of your teeth for any signs of bruxism. If your dentist determines you have a problem, he or she may provide you with a custom-fitted mouthguard to wear at night.
If you suffer from stress-related bruxism, you may also consider learning stress management techniques that may assist you in dealing with the underlying problems behind your teeth grinding. Taking a walk during moments of high anxiety, learning how to meditate, or starting an exercise program can all help you alleviate stress.
Enamel Erosion Due to Acid
Even though your teeth are made from the toughest substance produced by the body- enamel- they still become vulnerable when subjected to high levels of acidity in the mouth. As with many things, acid erodes tooth enamel, which makes your teeth more susceptible to decay. You can raise the acidity levels in your mouth by consuming highly acidic foods and drinks or by allowing bacteria that produce acid in the mouth to buildup.
Enamel erosion can also be the result of a number of other conditions such as reoccurring vomiting caused by pregnancy, bulimia, or alcoholism. Individuals who suffer from frequent bouts of acid reflux can also experience higher acidity levels in the mouth and enamel erosion.
Individuals suffering from alcoholism or bulimia need to seek help from a doctor for treatment of those conditions. If you’re vomiting frequently during the early stages of pregnancy, you should consider receiving a dental checkup to ensure your teeth remain healthy throughout your first trimester.