Human teeth are awesome. We wouldn’t have dedicated our professional lives to working with them if we didn’t think so.
There are so many things they can do, from chewing food to providing support for the structure of our faces to facilitating clear speech to being part of our beautiful smiles. Unfortunately, a lot of people try to put their teeth to other uses they weren’t designed for, which can lead to serious problems.
We could talk at length about how bad a nail-biting habit is, both for the teeth and the nails, but we’ll keep it short and sweet for now. Fingernails are the least sanitary parts of our hands because it’s so hard to scrub the germs out from under them, and all those germs get into our mouths when we chew our nails. Nail-biting also causes a lot of wear and tear to the teeth and can even shift them out of their correct alignment.
We know it’s quick and easy, but resist the impulse to bite through packing tape. It takes a lot more biting pressure to cut through a non-food item like tape than it does to chew actual food. Cutting through tape requires you to grind your teeth, which wears down the chewing surfaces and poses a risk of chipping or fracturing a tooth. It’s bad enough chewing through the tape, though; definitely don’t try to cut the wire with your teeth.
Trying to crack open nuts with hard shells like walnuts, pecans, or pistachios — or even cracking popcorn kernels — carries a major risk of accidentally cracking or chipping a tooth instead. Teeth that have already had dental work done or have untreated cavities are especially vulnerable to damage. Just use a nutcracker!
Just because tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the body doesn’t mean it’s up to the task of popping a metal lid off a bottle. Enamel might be hard, but it’s also very brittle. Using our teeth to open bottles is a great way to damage them, and if we slip, we could also damage the soft tissues of our lips or gums. It’s just not worth it.
It might seem convenient to hold a pencil, some nails, or a few sewing pins in your mouth until your hands are free, but this can have some scary unintended consequences. What if you trip? What if you get caught off-guard by a sudden hiccup or yawn? There are cases of people choking on or swallowing things they only meant to hold in their mouths for a few seconds. But even if an accident never happens, these objects can still wear down the teeth.
The third-highest cause of tooth loss is cracking and fracturing, so don’t put your teeth at risk by using them for things they weren’t designed to do! You’ll save yourself an emergency dental visit and expensive repairs by sticking to using your teeth for chewing and talking. Also make sure to keep up the daily flossing, twice-daily brushing with a soft-bristled brush, and twice-yearly dental visits!
Our patients have the best smiles!
Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.