Three Habits That Could Result In A Trip To The Emergency Dentist

Posted on: 13 June 2017

People commonly associate emergency dentistry with sudden oral trauma, such as getting hit in mouth with a hockey puck. However, your daily habits—even some good ones—can also have you banging on the dentist's door after hours looking for help with damaged teeth and gums. Here are three things you're doing that may result in a trip to the emergency dentist's chair.

Chewing Hard Candy, Ice, and Other Items

There's something satisfying about crushing hard items between your teeth, especially when you're feeling frustrated or angry. However, a daily habit of chewing on hard items can actually damage your teeth, leading to chips, cracks, and fractures. While your teeth were designed to exert and bear a certain amount of chewing force (an average of 171 pounds), exceeding that amount on a constant basis causes micro trauma that builds up over time until you suffer a broken tooth.

Of course, not all substances will do the same amount of damage. For example, small ice chips generally won't pose a problem while large ones will because of the difference in surface area and hardness. Still, it's best to break this habit because, more often than not, you'll just end up unthinkingly chewing everything.

If you chew items because you have a psychological or physiological need to do so, choose soft stuff such as sugarless gum. You'll strengthen your chewing muscles while minimizing the impact on your teeth.

Clenching and Grinding Your Teeth

People have a number of physiological reactions to negative emotions like stress and anger, and one of the more common ones is clenching and grinding their teeth. Oftentimes, the person isn't even aware they're doing it, and it's not unusual for this type of behavior to also happen while they're asleep.

Clenching and grinding your teeth weakens them in the same way as chewing on hard foods and items, increasing your risk of fractures and breaks. However, this behavior has the added danger of increasing your risk of developing a TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder because the grinding can push your jaw joints out of place. Teeth grinding may also reduce the vertical height of your teeth, leading to a misaligned bite that can cause TMJ as well.

Breaking this habit can be challenging because, as noted previously, many people aren't aware they're doing it. If the behavior occurs in your sleep, you can have the dentist recommend or prescribe a mouth guard that will help protect your teeth. If the behavior occurs while you're awake, you'll need to make an effort to become aware of when it's happening and switch to other coping mechanisms. Since stress is one of the most common reasons for teeth clenching and grinding, finding ways to reduce your stress can be immensely helpful.

Brushing Teeth After Eating

For decades dentists and parents have implored people to brush their teeth after eating a meal to get rid of leftover food particles that may cause cavities. Turns out, brushing right after consuming certain foods and drinks can actually harm your teeth. Specifically, acidic foods such as soda, citrus fruits, and tomatoes soften tooth enamel, and brushing your teeth after consuming them will cause you to remove some of this protective coating.

Enamel helps protect the inside of your teeth from bacteria. The thinner the enamel is, the higher the risk bacteria will penetrate the pulp, which could lead to infection, abscessed teeth, and a trip to the dentist for an emergency root canal.

Although dentists still recommend patients brush after eating, they suggest you wait at least 30 minutes for the enamel to solidify again. In the meantime, you can still remove food debris by rinsing your mouth with water or a medicated mouthwash.

For more information about these issues or help with a dental emergency, contact a local dentist like Matthew C. Cheney, DMD.