You brush twice a day, and even floss from time to time. Those are the biggies. But there are plenty of small mistakes guys make when it comes to taking care of their teeth. Unfortunately, some of those small mistakes turn into massive issues down the road.
From brushing right after your morning coffee to chewing ice, here are some common blunders guys make that imperil their pearly whites.
YOU BRUSH AFTER COFFEE
Anything acidic—coffee, tea, fried food—softens tooth enamel, which is the hard glaze that covers and protects your teeth, says Matthew J. Messina, DDS, a Cleveland-based dentist and advisor for the American Dental Association. Brush while your enamel is soft, and you can damage your teeth. Once you’ve had your morning joe, “wait 30 minutes for the enamel to stabilize before brushing,” Messina says.
YOU CHEW ICE
Ice is a crystal. So is tooth enamel. “When you push two crystals against each other, one will break,” Messina says. Most of the time it’s the ice. “Sometimes it’s the tooth,” he adds. Find something else to chew on.
YOU BRUSH TOO HARD
Proper brushing means hitting not just your teeth but also your sensitive gum line. If you’re brushing too forcefully, you can damage your gums or cause them to recede—exposing sensitive areas of your teeth, Messina says. “The best word to think is ‘massage,’ ” he says. Light pressure wish a soft-bristled brush is best.
YOU SLAM SUGARY DRINKS
Soda, sports drinks, energy shots … all get their sweet, tart flavors from sugar. Bacteria in your mouth convert that sugar to acid, which leads to cavities, Messina says. If you can sub in water, that’s better for your teeth (and body). If you can’t stand water, use a fluoride rinse once a day, preferably before bedtime. Fluoride helps safeguard your teeth from acid, Messina says.
YOU GO NUTS WITH MOUTHWASH AND WHITENERS
Rinsing with mouthwash several times a day can lead to sensitive teeth, Messina says. Ditto if you go overboard with tooth whitening strips or gels. “More is not always better,” he says. Limit your mouthwash use to once daily. And when it comes to whiteners, always follow the instructions.
DITCH CHEW CANDIES
When it comes to dental villains, sour and chewy candies are the worst. Some research has shown super sour candies are about as potent as battery acid when it comes to dissolving your tooth enamel. Messina says chewy candies like caramel or gummies grab hold of your teeth, and don’t let go without a fight. If you have a sweet tooth, chocolate is the easiest to brush away and least likely to harm your chompers, Messina says.
YOU SKIP YOUR TWICE-YEARLY DENTIST VISITS
When you brush, you’re removing “plaque,” which is the scrim of bacteria and other detritus left behind by the stuff that’s been in your mouth. Even if you’re diligent about brushing, some of that plaque is going to harden into cavity-causing tartar. And once it does, only a dentist can remove it, Messina says. If you’re not seeing a dentist every six months, that tartar will only spread and lead to bigger issues.
Consider yourself warned.