Daily stuff that can ruin your teeth...who knew! Wednesday, October 8, 2014 @ 11:39:21

Sugary snacks and too much fruit juice are well-known risk factors for tooth decay.  But there are other apparently innocent activities that could be damaging our teeth.

Earlier this month, it was suggested that exercise could be bad for teeth — dentists at University Hospital Heidelberg, Germany, found the longer athletes exercised, the less saliva they produced and the more alkaline it became.  Alkaline saliva encourages the growth of plaque bacteria, and for every extra hour of training each week, the researchers found there was an increased risk of having decayed or missing teeth.

So here are a few other daily things that could be putting your teeth or jaw at risk...

Drinking tea to warm you up

Drinking something hot after coming in from the cold may cause cracks in the surface of the teeth.  These superficial cracks, barely visible to the naked eye, are caused by rapid changes in temperature.  Teeth are made of a yellowish bulky material called dentine, which is covered with enamel, when a tooth is exposed to a sudden temperature change, this can stress the enamel and result in a crack.  Usually cracks are only a cosmetic problem, as they can become stained by coffee or red wine.  However, if they become deeper and enter the dentine, this can cause sensitivity.  A severe crack may also damage the pulp or nerve within the tooth, causing infection or an abscess.

This happens only if you are frequently exposed to extremes of temperature, so the effects are cumulative, like constantly stepping on ice until it gives way.  You can limit the change in temperature for your teeth during cold weather by wearing a scarf over your mouth, as this will warm the air you breathe.  The same kind of problem can be caused by crunching the ice in your drink.  When you chew ice, you’re creating a sudden change in temperature, stressing the enamel, which in turn can cause small cracks.

Swimming with your mouth open

Swimming in pools in which chlorine content hasn’t been carefully regulated may lead to dental erosion — loss of hard tissue from the surface of the tooth. It may also leave teeth discoloured and more sensitive.  Chlorine reacts with water to produce a weak form of hydrochloric acid, which can wear down teeth.  Researchers from the New York University College of Dentistry found pools that are not properly maintained can cause severe and rapid erosion of dental enamel.  Pools should have their chlorine levels checked regularly. While swimming, keep your mouth closed to avoid exposing teeth to chlorinated water.

Using hay fever remedies

Antihistamines used for allergies such as hay fever can cause a dry mouth, which can lead to tooth decay in the long term.
They work by blocking histamine — a chemical released by the immune system when the body is under attack.  However, in blocking receptors for histamine, the drug can have an effect on receptors elsewhere in the body, such as those on the tongue and in the mouth, this may affect the release of saliva, causing a dry mouth.

As well as being uncomfortable, dry mouth can lead to gum disease as the gums pull away from the teeth, and form ‘pockets’ that become infected. Teeth eventually loosen and can even fall out.  Chewing sugarless gum and sipping water may help boost saliva production.

Opening packets with your teeth

This is the old adage we used to hear from Mum..."don't use your teeth!!".  Using your teeth to hold knitting needles or biting off threads can make dents in the front teeth known as a tailor’s notch.

Biting nails, separating Lego blocks and tearing packets open with your teeth rather than finding the scissors can also put huge stress on the front teeth and can lead to cracks.

Brushing straight after eating

Acids and sugars produced when we eat weaken the protective enamel temporarily, so if you clean your teeth straight after eating, you are brushing away at the enamel before it hardens again.  Wait at least half an hour — or even better, brush your teeth before meals to remove bacteria that feed off the food, and then freshen up after eating using an alcohol-free mouthwash.  And fight the urge to rinse after cleaning your teeth, as it washes away the protective fluoride coating left by the toothpaste.

Taking the contraceptive pill

Some progesterone-only birth control pills could make gums inflamed and more likely to bleed.  They increase levels of hormones such as progesterone, much in the same way as pregnancy does.  It is thought these hormones cause an exaggerated reaction to dental plaque, triggering inflammation.  This is also why pregnant women may have inflamed gums that bleed when brushed. Changing to a lower progesterone Pill may help.  While there is no treatment for the inflammation, good dental care will minimise it.

Flying when you’ve got fillings

Air travel can trigger pain in a tooth that hasn’t previously bothered you because of changes in altitude causing tiny pockets of air to become trapped in deep fillings or collect in areas of decay. This air is trapped at a different pressure to cabin pressure, which is why it causes pain, the same could happen when mountain climbing or skiing.  Have a check-up before you go away to check you don’t need any fillings. The pain should dissipate within a few hours of landing — but see a dentist if it persists.

Being a chatterbox

Talking non-stop can cause wear and tear on the jaw and even lead to arthritis in the joint, constant movement of the jaw can wear out the joint.  The jaw joint is a complex joint and probably the most used in the human body. Around one in four people will have a problem in the jaw joints.  Treatment for arthritis in the jaw can involve a replacement of both joints.

Putting aspirin on a sore tooth

Applying a crushed-up aspirin tablet straight to the mouth is a common DIY remedy — the idea is that it directly attacks the source of the pain.  But applying it directly to the surface of an aching tooth may burn the soft, sensitive tissues in your mouth, so if you have toothache, aspirin may indeed help — but only if swallowed.

Using an asthma inhaler

Asthma inhalers usually contain an aerosol form of medication known as beta agonists, which work by relaxing the muscles surrounding the airways, making it easier to breathe.  However, studies here in Australia and Scandinavia have linked the drug to an increased risk of tooth decay, because it is slightly acidic. The key is to make sure that the medication doesn’t touch the teeth.

Some inhalers that contain the drug as a powder also contain lactose, a milk sugar, to improve its taste. But if residue from the powder is left on the teeth, it could contribute to decay.  Changes generally begin with brown areas, no bigger than a pinprick, on the inside of the teeth.  After using your inhaler, rinse your mouth with water.

Taking up scuba diving

Scuba diving can lead to jaw joint pain, gum tissue problems or tooth pain symptoms known as ‘diver’s mouth syndrome’.  This is caused by clamping on the mouthpiece and by the air pressure change involved in diving.