Submitted by Thomas Hall, DMD and Sara Rauen Dardis, DDS, Pediatric Smiles of Bloomington
Teeth are meant to chew food — and nothing else. They should never be used to rip open packages, cut thread, open nail polish bottles, crack nutshells, open sports bottles, pull out a watch stem, or break plastic sales tags. While teeth are certainly handy for performing such tasks — and everyone has likely used them occasionally in place of pliers or scissors — doing so can easily cause teeth to chip, crack, or break. If you’re lucky, teeth will just chip and can be filed down by your dentist. We often see more severe damage that may require a filling or crown to repair. Fillings and crowns are never as strong as the original tooth, and the process can be expensive.
Adults likely know that they shouldn’t use their teeth as tools, even though they may use them in this way, but it’s especially important that adults set a good example for their children and teach them to never use their teeth for anything but eating food. However, there are habits — like crunching ice, biting fingernails, and chewing on the end of an object like a pencil or eyeglasses — that can also cause damage to your teeth. You may not realize that you are creating a dental problem because the effects are cumulative and take time to show up.
Crunching ice may seem okay because it is easy to do, but the hardness of the ice along with the coldness is just asking for trouble.
Crushed ice is better than cubes, but even crushed ice should be avoided. Popcorn kernels are also a no-no as they can cause teeth to break. We usually think of nail biting as a bad habit because of the effect on the fingers and nails, but nails are hard and constantly chewing the nail off is simply not good for teeth. Some people put objects like a pencil or eyeglasses between their teeth when they are working on a problem, and they likely don’t realize how much pressure this is putting on their teeth. Clamping something between your teeth, like car keys, or allowing children to bite down on toys like a Barbie arm or construction piece, should always be avoided.
Think twice before putting any non-food item in your mouth. Keep real tools, like scissors and pliers, handy so you won’t resort to using your teeth. Some moms always keep fingernail clippers in the car or in their purse. This little tool is perfect for those on-the-go times when a thread is loose or a tag needs to be removed. So, brush your teeth twice a day, floss regularly, see your dentist twice a year, and don’t use your teeth as tools!
Pediatric Smiles of Bloomington is a specialized dental office for children 0 to 18 and special needs patients. They are located at 1112 Trinity Ln. in Bloomington and may be reached at 309-663-7339. Ask about their “No-Cavity Club” and the rewards kids may earn.