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Healthy Habits That Aren't Good for Your Teeth

Harvey Dental Group
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BY Harvey Dental Group

While healthy habits are generally good for the teeth, people sometimes employ these habits in ways that are detrimental to oral health. You shouldn't get rid of the healthy habits altogether, but you might need to make some slight changes in what you do if they're harming your teeth. Here are some healthy habits to watch out for.

Brushing Right After a Meal
Likely the most surprising item on the list, brushing can damage the enamel of your teeth if you do it too soon after eating or drinking.

Specifically, you don't want to brush within 30 minutes of having an acidic food or beverage. Acids that remain on the teeth after eating or drinking weaken the enamel, which is on the outer surface of your teeth. If you brush against weakened enamel, the friction of your bristles could cause the enamel to deteriorate especially fast.

Technically, you can safely brush any time after a meal that's not acidic. However, a lot of foods and drinks are acidic, and sometimes people don't realize what they're having has a low pH. For example, all of the following are acidic in the body:

  • Sugar
  • Grains
  • Fish
  • Some dairy items

Rather than fret over every ingredient in a meal, snack, or beverage, you can simply wait 30 minutes after eating or drinking to brush your teeth. By this time, your saliva will wash away the lingering acids that weaken enamel.

Drinking Only Bottled Water
Bottled water provides a convenient way to remain hydrated wherever you go, and there's nothing wrong health-wise with having it even on a regular basis. If you only drink bottled water, however, you're doing your teeth a disservice.

Tap water in many municipalities contains fluoride, which is commonly used as an anti-cavity measure. Many toothpastes have fluoride, and dentists regularly use it as a treatment in their office. For people who drink tap water, the fluoride in it provides a small continual supply that complements these other sources.

Fluoride isn't normally found in bottled water, which tends to be purified to remove additives like this.

If you live in an area where municipally treated tap water is available, this should be part of your daily beverage intake. You won't actively harm your teeth if you drink only bottled water, but you will miss out on an opportunity to prevent cavities. A combination of bottled and tap water will let you benefit from fluoride and have water available wherever you go.

Constantly Snacking
Because so many foods and beverages are acidic, frequent snacking often lowers the pH in your mouth and thereby increase its acidity. The long-term effects of snacking, however, go beyond simple acidification.When you constantly snack, you regularly introduce new (and likely pH-lowering) foods into your mouth. This prevents your salivary glands from appropriately neutralizing the pH. In contrast, eating only at mealtimes gives your salivary glands much more time to wash the acids out of your mouth and increase its pH.

The acid-related considerations that come with constant snacking have implications for two groups of people. First, dieters who follow a snacking schedule throughout the day may instead want to look for a diet that promotes eating at mealtimes.

Second, people who still want to snack need to think about more than whether a food is healthy when looking for something to eat. They also should consider whether it's acidic. One food that increases pH in the mouth (and thus reduces acidity) is cheese. This can be a good snack for your teeth if you must have something small to eat.

Of course, one habit you should continue to follow is to see a dentist regularly. If you need a dental cleaning, contact Dr. M. Dawn Harvey, DMD, PC.

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