Dr. Tariq Idrees, a dentist at Cariswood Dental clinic, Manchester, has said that people make a number of simple mistakes which severely damage their pearly whites.
For example, going swimming can harm our smile as chlorine is linked with enamel erosion. And swirling wine around the mouth to taste the flavour ensures the teeth become coated in tooth-rotting acid – with prosecco being particularly bad.
Here, he reveals why we should stop drinking hot water and lemon and start pairing fizzy drinks with cheese…
1. CHEWING ICE CUBES IN DRINKS
The brittleness and cold temperatures of ice cubes can actually cause teeth to fracture. 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.
2. EATING DRIED FRUITS
Raisins or more fashionable dried fruits such as cranberries, mangos and pineapples are all terrible for your teeth. They are highly acidic – but what makes them particularly damaging is they stick to the teeth, compounding the damage.
3. SWILLING WINE
Wine is particularly bad for your teeth because it comes from grapes which are acidic fruits. Some wines are worse than others – white wine is more acidic than red – and fizzy wine such as prosecco is even worse because the gas acts as an acid too.
Wine experts tell you to swirl a good wine around your mouth to bring out the flavour – but this is the worst thing you can do if you want to preserve your teeth. Swirling simply ensures more of your teeth are covered in the acid.
4. HOT WATER AND LEMON, TEA AND COFFEE
Not only only does it stain your teeth but it rots them, too. They are both high in caffeine, particularly coffee, and this dries out the mouth, making us more susceptible to tooth decay.
They stain the teeth too and perhaps surprisingly tea is worse than coffee when it comes to staining. This is because tannin in tea is a much more powerful staining agent than caffeine. You have to drink quite a lot of black coffee to stain your teeth – five or six cups a day.
Staining from coffee is very superficial, effecting just the biofilm, a thin layer of bacteria which covers the teeth and gums, and doesn’t penetrate through the enamel itself.
Lots of women drink lemon and water as a healthy alternative to tea and coffee. This causes gross teeth erosion and should be avoided.
If you swim in a pool often, you may find that you’re doing harm to your teeth. The chemicals that are put into swimming pools, particularly chlorine, are linked to enamel erosion.
Both the American Journal of Dentistry and the Journal of the Canadian Dental Association report that swimming in a pool with a high chlorine content for just 34 weeks can cause a rapid increases in dental erosion and sensitivity.
Best to keep your mouth closed when you swim at a pool – better still, swim in the sea.
6. 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.
7. BRUSHING TOO MUCH
Brushing your teeth twice a day (in the mornings and last thing at night) is sufficient. Many people brush more than the recommended number of times per day – especially after a big meal.
Brushing within 30 minutes of a big meal of fizzy drink like cola, can lead to worse damage. After drinking fizzy or acidic drinks, the acid burns into the enamel of your teeth – and the layer below the enamel, called dentin.
It’s also important not to brush too soon after finishing a meal – this can drive the acid deeper into the teeth, corroding them faster than they would have rotted by themselves.
Wait at least an hour after a meal or fizzy drink before brushing – this will give your saliva a chance to neutralise the acid.
8. EATING TOO MUCH FRUIT
Fruit is extremely acidic and particularly harmful to teeth. It is packed full of sugar which bacteria in turn feeds on, producing acid as waste.
That acid then leads to erosion. This leaves health-conscious people in a tricky situation: their doctor is telling them to have five a day, but their dentist is saying the opposite.
So how can people minimise the damage while eating healthily? Group fruit consumption into sessions to minimise the adverse effects.
Drinking water and eating food with neutralising qualities, such as cheese, can help reduce the negative effect on teeth.
9. TONGUE AND LIP PIERCINGS
It is very common for patients with these piercings to chip their teeth by accident when they are eating.
10. USING TEETH AS TOOLS
Lots of us use our teeth for odd jobs – to rip a price tag off a piece of clothing, open a packet of crisps, uncap a bottle of nail varnish, pull out a watch stem.
This can be hard on our teeth, traumatising them or causing the edge of a weakened tooth to chip off or even fracture. Keep tools such as scissors or pliers handy to do the dirty work and let you maintain good dental health.