If you’ve been ultra-diligent with your dental hygiene regimen, congrats on a job well done, but did you know that some habits can do more harm than good? It may all sound innocent, but certain oral habits may be unraveling all that good work you do every day. So don’t let all your good efforts fly down the drain so fast. Here a nice list of some habits you need to avoid if you want to steer clear of certain oral infections and dental issues:
1. Smoking. According to the CDC, the nicotine habit harms nearly every organ in your body,including your mouth, teeth and tongue. Besides being responsible for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, smoking can pack a punch when it comes to your gums. It can lead to periodontitis and tooth loss, and is also a direct cause of oral cancer or cancer of the larynx and esophagus.
A recent study from the University of Kentucky has identified smoking as a method of promotion for the bacterium porphyromonas gingivalis, specifically in smokers as compared to non-smokers. Not only does this bacterium flourish in the biofilm of dental plaque but it further forms a barrier against the body’s natural immune response and becomes stronger by resisting certain antibiotics.
2. Using a toothbrush that doesn’t belong to you. Sharing a toothbrush is never a good idea, especially if you’re trying to avoid a cold, flu or virus. Surprisingly, one in ten said they have shared a toothbrush according to research conducted by the British Dental Health Foundation in June of 2014. Besides sharing the common cold, if you’re sharing a toothbrush with someone whose gums bleed, you’re sharing more than just saliva. The transfer of blood exposes you to other oral infections since thousands of bacteria, microorganisms and other bodily fluids reside in the mouth.
3. Failing to replace your toothbrush or toothbrush head. According to the CDC, a tooth brush or a toothbrush head to an electric toothbrush needs to be changed every 3 to 4 months. If you wait longer, your brush bristles are likely to become frayed and less efficient at sweeping plaque and food debris away. The best care for your tooth brush includes rinsing it thoroughly with water to remove debris and tooth paste. Also place it in an area where it can air dry upright and uncovered. Be sure to keep the toothbrushes separated.
4. Biting your nails. Thousands of bacteria can reside underneath your nails even if you wash your hands many times throughout the day. Everything you touch from doorknobs to shopping cart handles has germs and bacteria. It’s a pretty quick trip from your nails to your mouth if you periodically bite your nails from habit, stress or nerves. Besides bacteria like E.coli and a host of other germs, you could be doing some real damage. Gnawing away at your nails can cause your teeth to chip or fracture depending on how hard your teeth click together. With all the bacteria you’re ingesting, don’t forget your breath. Constantly biting your nails can cause bad breath, and the continually transfer of new bacteria into your mouth. A sort of cycle develops that can be difficult to alleviate. To quit your nail-biting habit, try sugarless gum or rubbing a worry stone. If that doesn’t work, curb that adrenaline with some good old-fashioned exercise.
5. Failing to wash your hands before you eat. Your mom was right! Washing your hands before you sit down to dinner is good manners and good health. If you’re in a place where washing your hands before eating is difficult, try carrying some anti-bacterial wipes with you. If that won’t work, just be careful to keep your hands a good distance away from your mouth until you can find a washroom. Remember, it’s always a good rule of thumb to wash your hands and clean your nails frequently just to keep up the practice.
6. Eating something that has fallen on the floor without washing it first. No five or ten second rule applies here. If it falls on the floor, just throw it away!
7. Kissing someone who has bad oral hygiene or gum disease. Besides passing colds, viruses and flu, you can pass oral bacteria to one another by kissing or swapping saliva. Whether it’s sharing a glass or sharing a kiss, parent’s can pass on cavity-causing bacteria to their kids according to this NBC news piece. It’s best to refrain from blowing on baby’s food or chewing food before giving it to your child so that oral bacterium isn’t transferred.
In extreme cases, can kissing be deadly? For a severely allergic Quebec woman, a kiss was a matter of life or death due to her peanut allergy. In a bizarre twist of fate and without an EpiPen, a good-night kiss from her boyfriend who recently ate a peanut butter sandwich caused a hyper-allergic reaction which ultimately led to her demise.
8. Sharing lipstick or lip balm. Sharing cosmetics for the lips can expose you to herpes simplex virus and canker sores. For obvious reasons, it’s best to just get your own chapstick.
9. Sharing gum (ick!) In grammar school, it was all in fun. But sharing a wad of gum wrapped up in saliva could expose you to a litany of germs and bacteria far too many to mention in this post.
10. Sharing snorkeling or musical equipment. Just like a drinking from the same glass, you’re sharing oral bacteria with one another. It just happens to be a different mode of transmission. But just a lapse in judgment can lead to more than just a cold or cough.
11. Touching a drinking fountain with your lips, teeth or tongue. If the arc of water can’t reach your lips, it’s best to just back away. Never touch your lips, tongue or teeth onto a public water fountain if at all possible.
12. Not brushing after eating sugary sweet, sticky, starchy snacks. Cavity-causing bacteria love plaque. When starchy or sugary film sticks to enamel, the bacteria erupt in biofilm called plaque. If possible brush after snacks, especially sweet, starchy sticky snacks. Your mouth, gums and teeth will thank you.
Regardless of what dental event or development you happen to find yourself in, your dentist is there to help.