12 Things Dentists Never Put in Their Mouth
Dentists know all about good oral hygiene, but taking care of your teeth is more than just brushing and flossing twice a day. In fact, there are some things that dentists never put in their mouths—so neither should you.
They’re a fruit after all—so how much harm could they cause? As it turns out, a whole lot. People have a habit of sucking on lemons and keeping them in their mouth for longer than they would other food, explains Victoria Veytsman, MD, a New York City dentist. Because lemons are so acidic, she warns this can lead to enamel erosion and also throws off the mouth’s ideal balance of acids and bases, known as pH balance.
For whatever reason, many people love to chew on ice or ice chips. But doing so sets up a battle between your teeth and the ice. In fact, dentist Peter Vanstrom, DDS, has seen many cases each year where the ice cube has won and a tooth or several teeth are fractured. “These fractured teeth may require crowns to restore proper function and stability,” he says. Instead of munching on ice, he recommends sipping chilled beverages or using a straw so you’re not tempted to crunch.
Metal bottle caps
When you don’t have a bottle opener, it can be tempting to use your teeth, but this is a major no-no according to dentists. “If you break a tooth down the middle, you may lose the tooth entirely and need an implant and implant crown,” says Bill Dorfman, DDS, Beverly Hills-based cosmetic dentist. “It’s just not worth it.” Instead, wait until you have a bottle opener or at least another instrument besides your teeth to crank it open.
Plastic bottle tops
Just like bottle caps, plastic bottle tops can be a pain to open. But resist the temptation to put the plastic top in your mouth to loosen the cap. “This can not only cause teeth fractures but muscle and temporomandibular joint [TMJ] pain and problems,” warns Dr. Vanstrom. “That twist of your head and jaw put a quite a bit of strain on your chewing muscles and joints.” Instead, avoid teeth fractures, muscle pain, and TMJ problems by using your hands.
Other people’s toothbrushes
Whether it’s your significant other’s or your best friend’s, resist the temptation to borrow a toothbrush—even if it’s just for one night. “Not only are they full of bacteria, but the biggest risk is that, if the person is sick or about to get sick, you will too,” warns Dr. Dorfman. “There are also studies that suggest that the bacteria that cause tooth decay can be spread through sharing toothbrushes.”
When it comes to harmful nervous habits, biting your nails might not be the worst. But Lana Rozenberg, DDS, a New York City-based dentist, warns that the habit can flatten the edges of your front teeth. “Over time, your teeth can wear faster and nail-biting can create cracks on the enamel of your teeth until they become hypersensitive,” she says. “The biting action also puts your jaw in an unnatural position that can stress your joints, can cause grinding and clenching—and this prolonged pressure and friction can cause pain in your teeth, ears, and jaw.” (Check out these dentist-approved home remedies for sensitive teeth.)
When you’re walking to or from your car and are carrying more items than you have hands for, it can be tempting to slide your keys in your mouth and bite down to hold them, but this can cost you that perfect smile. “Keys are a culprit for chipped or cracked teeth,” warns Dr. Vanstrom. “Keys are also filled with bacteria that can make you sick, so when in doubt, put the bags down and open the car or door.”
Pens, paper clips, and erasers
“People have chewed on pencils, pens, the metal support of erasers, and paper clips for generations—and, for generations, people have been breaking teeth,” says Dr. Vanstrom. While it’s tempting to chew on your pen or eraser when you’re bored, he recommends opting for sugar-free gum instead. This way, you’re not putting a bacteria-riddled item in your mouth and you’re preserving your smile. (Plus, read up on these other habits that are damaging your teeth.)
Facial piercings might be trendy, but studs and rings create breeding grounds for infection, not to mention cause bleeding and swelling of the tongue or nearby tissue. Additionally, Dr. Rozenberg points out that tongue, cheek, or lip jewellery can cause chronic injury to adjacent teeth and mucosa (the cheeks, lips, taste buds), including tooth fractures and gum recession, which can lead to tooth loss.
They may be undeniably tasty and satisfying (at least while they’re still in our mouth), but potato chips are no good for your chompers. “They’re loaded with starch, which becomes sugar that can get trapped in and between the teeth and feed the bacteria in the plaque,” says Dr. Rozenberg. “Since we rarely have just one, the acid production from the chips lingers and lasts a while.” For a salty snack, try making these kale chips instead.
It might sound strange, but Dr. Dorfman constantly sees people pull these from the machine in a garage and put them in their mouths while they park. Not only are parking vouchers, or anything you receive from a public space like a parking garage, not sterile, but they do nothing for your teeth. Often printed on thermal paper, they’re loaded with chemicals that are bad for your mouth and your body.
Next, find out the teeth-cleaning mistakes that make dentists cringe.