Kanye West may be the only person with sparkling teeth, these days. When the rapper showed off his diamond-encrusted grill on Ellen this week, it was like the halcyon days of 2003 all over again. Forget bedazzling, more than a quarter of Americans haven't even been for a dental check-up in a year, thanks to Medicaid cuts, unemployment and general belt-tightening. Even those who can afford dental procedures like veneers are requesting a more natural look-complete with dints, scratches and slight discolorations-- so as not to stand out from the crowd.
So what's a man with a mouthful of diamonds got to do with us? We're both destroying our teeth without even knowing it. One dentist told the L.A. Times Kanye's pricey procedure is a bacteria breeding ground that may require thousands of dollars in surgery down the road.
Diamonds are nothing compared to the beatings our mouths get every day. Brushing, flossing and avoiding sugary foods aren't enough to protect your teeth. In fact one of those things isn't always a good thing. Teeth jewelry is fairly obvious, but the following five dental destroyers may come as a surprise.
Drinking sports drinks: A recent study from the University of Birmingham found that regular gulping down of sports drinks could lead to serious tooth erosion and infection. Researchers tested two unnamed drinks and found some can multiply enamel loss by 30. The culprit may be high levels of acidity that counteract your mouth's normal PH balance. Diet sodas with acidic chemicals like aspartame can also contribute to the wearing down of teeth. Even highly acidic juices made from oranges or grapefruits can lead to infection from erosion over time, especially if the drinks are swooshed around in the mouth a lot. If you're stuck on your soft drinks, Prevention Magazine suggests drinking through a straw positioned to the back of your mouth, to avoid direct contact with your teeth.
Putting on lipstick: Beauty, but at what cost? Your smile. Makeup for your mouth that contains paraffin may erode tooth enamel, according to research from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. As the enamel erodes and paraffin turns the tooth porous, creating a harbor for bacteria to breed. The result: cavities, infections and cracks. And it only takes a few months of daily use to start manifesting results. But don't stop coloring your lips; just check the label for one of several paraffin-free lipsticks on the market.
Eating a bagel: You may as well have that doughnut, because carb-heavy savory products aren't much better for your teeth. Once it breaks down into simple sugars it's all the same. Sugar causes bacteria and plaque. And plaque causes gum disease and painful cavities. The biggest problem with something like a bagel or crackers is that the gummy texture gets caught in the teeth and lodges there for long periods accumulating bacteria, according to Prevention Magazine. If you have to have your breakfast schmear, brush your teeth. If you had an everything bagel, consider it a community service.
Brushing your teeth: Even the thing five our five dentists recommend can be a sore spot. Overuse and rough brushing is the number two cause of dental abrasion, according to the American Dental Association. The sandy, grinds in toothpaste designed to slough off bacteria can actually sandblast your teeth leaving them darker in appearance and feeling hypersensitive. Getting a brush with softer bristles and toothpaste for sensitive mouths can help curb the problem.
Flicking your tongue: You'd think by now your teeth and tongue would get along. But many people are having mouth fights without even knowing it. The problem is tongue-thrusting, or the movement of your tongue when you swallow. If your tongue ends up pushing behind your front teeth, you could end up with buck teeth or a space in your smile. Since we swallow an average of 2000 times a day, you're repeating the action even when you don't know it. You may need to break the habit by retraining your tongue to hit the roof of your mouth instead. Meanwhile, people with tongue-pierces may have more to worry about. A case study published in the Journal of Clinical Orthodontics, found the piercing could cause spacing and teeth gaps over time. Simply flicking the metal ball against the top row of teeth can result in thousands of dollars worth of oral surgery.