Protecting Your Teeth
Your body cannot grow more permanent teeth so it is important to protect them. So make sure to eat properly, wear a mouth guard if you play sports or grind your teeth, and use care if you get oral piercings. Your teeth are strong, but they, and your mouth in general, need protection.
Eating for your teeth (not just with them)
Your diet is crucial to oral hygiene. Before your body can use the food, it needs to be chewed up by your teeth. A diet full in nutrients from all the food groups can help protect your teeth. Sugar, especially in sodas, can cause cavities on your teeth. Limit sugar intake by eating healthier snacks. And, if you do have a lot of sugar in your diet, try and have your sugary foods during a meal, rather than as a snack. Eating sugars during a full meal is better than during snacking because a full meal produces more saliva, which helps wash away the sugars and break down plaque. Choose healthier snack alternatives such as fruits, vegetables or cheeses to help protect your teeth between meals.
Avoid chewing on hard objects such as ice or even the ends of pencils. Not only can this weaken the enamel of your teeth, but it can also put you at risk for breaking or cracking a tooth. Your teeth may be strong, but they were really only intended to chew food, so try and break the bad habits of chewing objects that are not edible.
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If you play contact sports, make sure to use a mouth guard to protect your teeth from getting chipped, broken or knocked out. A mouth guard absorbs the force of contact, either from an elbow to the face, or even biting your teeth together. If you grind your teeth while you sleep, you can use a mouth guard to keep your enamel from breaking down. A dentist or a sporting good store can provide a simple mouth guard for your protection.
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Tobacco in all forms can cause damage to your mouth and teeth, as well as your entire body. This includes cigars, cigarettes, chew and dip. Tobacco can cause tooth discoloration, gum disease, tooth loss and cancer of the tongue, lips, gums and lungs. Cancer in your mouth from chew can lead to a partial or complete removal of your jaw. (I have seen pictures, it is not a pretty sight.) The best way to prevent problems is to stay away from tobacco. If you already use tobacco, there are patches and gums to help you quit. Talk to your doctor about the best options for you.
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Oral piercing usually starts as a fashion statement, but can cause a lot of damage if not taken care of properly. If you decide to get some "mouth art," make sure to protect your mouth.
The first step you can take is making sure that the studio you go to is continually sanitized and any instrument used on your body is sterile. You can tell if the place is sterile because the instruments will usually come straight out of a package or will be placed into a little machine (kind of like a mini-dishwasher) that can deep clean them. This process is also used by dentists to sterilize their equipment, so keep this in mind when you are looking at studios.
Complications during the initial piercing can lead to infection of your mouth. If a piercing is set improperly, for example, it can lead to chipped teeth or erosion of the teeth and gums. Surgical grade stainless steel is also recommended for the jewelry because it is least likely to cause infections or allergic reactions.
If you have a tongue piercing, make sure to clean out the piercing every time you eat to prevent bacteria from building up in between your tongue and the piercing. Remove the jewelry so you can clean it and your mouth separately without interference.
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College Student Intern
Special thanks to our guest reviewer Brian C. Quo, DDS, at Peninsula Pediatric Dentistry