You might have seen an anti-smoking television commercial recently that featured a young man purchasing cigarettes at a convenience store. The customer requests a pack of menthol cigarettes and places a few dollars on the counter. The clerk looks at the customer suspiciously and says, “It’s not enough.” The customer sighs and pulls out pliers to remove a tooth.

It’s an unsettling and graphic commercial, but then again, most anti-smoking commercials are that way. Smoking or smokeless tobacco can wreak havoc on your smile, increasing your risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss. That commercial got me thinking about the ways in which people are destroying their teeth. Today I have a special list for you to read about some bad habits that might be killing your smile. You may have some of these bad habits and not even know it.

• Smoking or using tobacco. I wanted to started with this because of the example I gave earlier. You probably know about the overall health affects of using tobacco, but tobacco use also increase your risk of gum disease and potentially deadly oral cancer. Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. Studies also show that a majority of patients with oral cancers also smoke or use smokeless tobacco.

• Chewing on hard objects. It’s not uncommon for people to chew on pen or pencils or even crunch of ice. Your teeth are extremely hard, especially the outer layer of the tooth, the enamel. Your enamel is the hardest substance in the body, in fact, but it can be damaged or break under stress. Think of it this way: Your teeth are designed to chew through things, not against things.

• Too much soda. Soda is the common enemy of any dentist. You have probably heard this before. It’s packed with sugar that can damage your enamel. Non-cola sodas like Sprite and 7 Up are actually worse for your teeth because they contain citric acid, which is known to cause enamel erosion.

• Not changing your toothbrush. An old toothbrush is like a worn-out wrench. It kind of works, but just doesn’t get the job done. It’s nearly impossible to clean your teeth properly with an old toothbrush. The American Dentistry Association recommends that patients change out their toothbrushes — or the head of the brush if it’s electronic — once every three to four months. This protects you against using a bad toothbrush or one that has accumulated harmful bacteria. We also give each patient a new toothbrush after their regular cleanings and exams.

• Grinding or clenching your teeth. Teeth grinding or clenching are involuntarily habits that people often do while they sleep. Grinding or clenching puts huge amounts of stress on your teeth causing chips, cracks, or even breaks. These habits also put stress on the jaw muscles, which can create soreness and tenderness. We can fashion a comfortable mouthguard for you to wear at night. The guard moves the jawbone forward while taking the stress off of the teeth.

• Too much snacking. We’ve all been at work or home and decided to munch on snacks for perhaps longer than we’re proud to admit. Snacking is not good for your teeth, as it increases the amounts of plaque and bacteria in the mouth. Some healthy snacks like apples increase the saliva levels in the mouth. Saliva helps flush food debris from your teeth and fight off harmful bacteria.

• Skipping the floss. Floss is not optional. It goes with brushing. About 35 percent of the tooth — the root — is located under the gumline. That’s a big portion of the tooth NOT to clean. But that’s what you’re doing when you don’t floss! When you floss daily, you reduce your risk of cavities and gum disease.

Some dental problems or unavoidable, but you have tremendous amount of control toward keeping your mouth healthy and beautiful. Follow these tips, and you’ll reduce your risk of tooth decay or nearly eliminate the need for restorative dentistry down the road. Our office handles general, cosmetic, and restorative dental cases. We’re here to help you achieve a better, brighter smile. Call us today at 248-329-3552.