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Bad Oral Habits Can Damage Your Teeth

Aug 17, 2007
Teeth are for biting and chewing food, not for tearing packages open, pulling tags off new clothes, undoing knots or cracking nuts! We have all probably been guilty of using our teeth as a multi-purpose tool, but we should give our teeth much more respect. Although your teeth are strong, they will crack or chip with misuse. Here are some habits we would love you to try to give up once and for all:

(1) Chewing ice

Many people habitually chew on ice, which can cause gum injuries or even broken teeth. Sometimes the damage is severe enough to require a crown. If ice chewing is a part of your routine, try sugarless gum instead. If you need to crunch something, try baby carrots or apple chunks.

The urge to chew ice can also be symptomatic of iron-deficiency anemia. This is common form of anemia affects approximately 20 percent of women, 50 percent of pregnant women, and three percent of men. Iron-deficiency anemia is usually caused by inadequate iron intake, blood loss (from menstruation or surgery), or an increased need for iron (common with pregnancy or lactation).

Iron is essential to the oxygen-carrying function of the blood. Without enough iron in your blood, your red blood cells (hemoglobin) cannot provide adequate oxygen supplies to your body tissues. You end up feeling tired and listless, and your skin may look pale. As anemia worsens, it can produce an irregular heart rate because your heart pumps additional blood to make up for the low level of oxygen. Anemia should not be left untreated.

Whatever the cause, the bottom line is, do not chew ice! If you find it difficult to stop the habit, contact your physician.

(2) Using your teeth as a scissors

Many people use their teeth to cut through string, open packages or remove tags from clothing. Of course, this is very bad for your teeth. In particular, if you use your teeth to remove the plastic "strings" that affix price tags to clothing, you might find yourself with a small divot in one of your teeth. This can lead to cracking and fracturing of the tooth later on. Always use scissors!

(3) Using toothpicks improperly

Used properly, a toothpick can be a great tool to remove food from between your teeth when you do not have floss handy. But if you are aggressive with the toothpick, it can injure your gums or break off between your teeth. Use toothpicks gently, do not chew on them, and be sure to use the rounded ones, as they are less likely to damage your gums.

(4) Chewing pencils, pens and other hard objects

Your teeth were meant to chew food, not writing utensils. Pencils, pens and other things that do not belong in your mouth can fracture teeth, leading to otherwise unnecessary dental repairs. Besides, you do not know where these items have been, so why would you put them in your mouth? If you feel the need to chew, stick to sugarless gum.

As you can see, misuse of your teeth could cause chips and fractures, resulting in unnecessary dental work. It is not that we do not want to see you in the dental office. Your dentists just do not want to have to treat you in preventable situations! Please try to avoid using your teeth, unless it is for biting or chewing food, of course!
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