Your teeth are made from tough stuff. Their outer layer, the enamel, is the strongest substance in your body. But habits, health conditions, and injuries can lead to wear and tear.
Grinding and Clenching
Your teeth are meant to bite down and chew, but too much of it can cause damage. In the long-term, the friction can wear away at enamel and fracture fillings. Your dentist might call this bruxism, and it affects millions of adults. It can happen during the day or while you sleep.
A few things may cause it:
Stress and anxiety. They can trigger it, or make it worse
Teeth alignment. The way they line up may cause grinding
Some antidepressants can lead to it
Sleep apnea. Treat the apnea and the grinding may end
Awareness is your first line of defense against grinding and clenching. If you notice yourself doing it, rub your tongue behind your front teeth, or place the tip between your teeth. Tell your doctor and dentist if you have headaches or facial or jaw pain, tightness, or soreness. If stress is the cause, do some relaxing activities: exercise, spend time with friends, or take a few deep breaths.
If you grind your teeth at night, your dentist may recommend a mouth guard. Your doctor may also prescribe a muscle relaxer. They may want to keep track of your sleep to check for a sleep disorder.
Chipped, Fractured, or Broken Teeth
Those problems can stem from heavy force or pressure. It can happen when you bite down on a hard food or object, like a piece of crusty bread, ice, or pens. Impact from sports or accidents can also damage your teeth. Sports injuries account for up to 39% of dental injuries in children.
Take some steps to safeguard your smile:
Don’t bite down on hard foods, like ice and hard candies. Also, instead of trying to open that package or bottle with your mouth, grab an opener or pair of scissors
A cavity or filling can weaken your tooth and make it more likely to chip or break, too. So it’s important to see your dentist for a check-up twice a year
And if you play a contact sport, ask your dentist to fit you for a mouth guard. Athletes who don’t wear them are nearly twice as likely to have a mouth or tooth injury.
Acid and Tooth Enamel Erosion
Acids can eat away at all surfaces, including tooth enamel
Here are some ways you’re exposing your mouth to acid:
Acidic foods and drinks
Citrus fruits can wear down enamel. Sodas, lemonade, and sports and energy drinks are the most harmful drinks
Bacteria on your teeth feed on sugar. They make harmful acids and cause cavities
It brings stomach acids back into your esophagus and mouth
Conditions that cause this, like alcoholism and bulimia, expose your teeth to stomach acid too often
Tips to reduce acid wear
Cut down on sugary and acidic drinks and snacks during the day
Each time have something acidic or sugary, rinse your mouth with some water, or chew a piece of sugarless gum, which boosts your saliva flow. Your saliva contains minerals like calcium and phosphate that strengthen tooth enamel
If you have acid reflux (or GERD), alcoholism, or bulimia, see your doctor for treatment or medication
Brush your teeth for 2 minutes, twice a day, with a fluoride toothpaste. A fluoride mouth rinse will also help