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No Dental Work is as Good as Your Natural Teeth
©Subbotina Anna/

Pretend that you’re in your car driving on a freshly-paved road.  Doesn’t it feel nice as your tires effortlessly glide on the smooth, even surface?

A Repaired Pothole Isn't as Good as the Original RoadFlash forward a few years and imagine driving down the same road.  Due to the recent bad winters, the road is now lined with potholes that have been repaired.

When you drive over that filled in pothole, does it feel as good as the road did when it was new?  Probably not.

Dental Work Isn’t As Good As Your Natural Teeth

When you get a cavity, a dentist is able to remove the decayed portion of your tooth and then replace it with a filling.  However, even the best dentist in the world (is there one?!) can’t make a filling that is the same quality as your natural tooth used to be.  This is the reason that many people can keep their teeth for their whole lifetime, yet many fillings last less than ten years.

Teeth last longer than fillings.  One of the best things you can do for your teeth is to avoid needing dental work by keeping your teeth healthy.

To learn more about keeping your teeth healthy, read about the Top 12 Weapons of Plaque Destruction and What Every Human Needs to Know About Plaque.

Do you have any questions or comments about how you can keep your teeth healthy to avoid losing your natural tooth structure? I’d love to hear them in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!

What Causes Cavities on Teeth
©Sebastian Kaulitzki/

If you’re like most people, you may believe that sugar causes cavities.  After all, candy is bad for our teeth, right?

Sugar doesn’t cause cavities.  In fact, this has been known for over 50 years!

In 1954, a man by the name of Frank Orland wanted to see if sugar caused cavities.  He conducted a pioneering research study, in which he raised 22 rats in a sterile environment.  From birth ’til death, these rats never had any contact with any germs.  He fed these rats lots of sugar throughout their entire life.

Guess how many of these rats that ate sugar every day ended up getting cavities?


None of the rats that were raised “germ-free” got any cavities even while they were eating all of the sugary foods that they wanted.  In contrast, 38 of the 39 rats that ate the same foods but were not raised “germ-free” ended up getting cavities.

Part of his conclusion states, “Findings indicated that twenty-two rats reared under germfree conditions remained entirely free of even microscopically demonstrable dental caries. Of thirty-nine conventional control rats, possessing the usual mixed microbial populations, thirty-eight developed various lesions when maintained on the same kind of dietary regime as the germfree animals. It is deduced from this evidence that dental caries in the rat is not possible in the absence of microorganisms.”

If you only looked at Dr. Orland’s study, you may be tempted to say that it must be bacteria, and not sugar, that causes cavities.

More recently, other studies have shown that it’s possible for rats with bacteria to not have any cavities if they are not fed sugar or fermentable carbohydrates.

These studies lead us to believe that bacteria and sugar must be present in order to get cavities.  But even these two elements don’t account for the whole picture.

For example, my wife never had a cavity in the first 25 years of her life.  Like most normal people, she ate sugar and had bacteria in her mouth.

So, what really causes cavities?  There are actually four components that, when present together, cause cavities:

What Causes Cavities?

In order to get cavities, you need to have four main ingredients:

1 – Sugar
2 – Bacteria
3 – A Susceptible Tooth
4 – Time

You can take a look at this relationship in the diagram below.  If you’re interested, you can then read about how you can use this information to prevent cavities.

4 Causes of Cavities & Tooth Decay


1 – Sugar

For simplicity’s sake, I labeled this category as sugar.  In reality, it could be called refined carbohydrates because anything that can be broken down into sugar inside of your mouth is able to feed the bacteria that contribute to causing cavities.

For example, potato chips are made of a simple starch that can be broken down into sugar by enzymes that are found in your saliva.  How often you eat sugar is more important than how much sugar you eat in one sitting.

To learn more, read What Happens In Your Mouth Every Time You Eat or Drink, What Fermentable Carbohydrates Are & How They Hurt Your Teeth, and 50 Names for Sugar that Food Makers Use to Trick You.

2 – Bacteria

Bacteria live inside all of our mouths (unless you’re one of the rats in Dr. Orland’s study!)  It’s really fascinating to me that there are millions of little creatures living inside of everyone’s mouth — this is what first got me interested in dentistry and was the subject of my first article here at Oral Answers, What Every Human Needs to Know About Plaque.

While you can’t completely rid your mouth of all the bacteria, you can destroy the homes they build on your teeth every time you brush and floss.  By regularly brushing and flossing, you can help win the fight against the bacteria in your mouth.

3 – A Susceptible Tooth

Many people who have had their share of cavities say that they have soft enamel or that  bad teeth run in their family.  While there’s no such thing as soft enamel, people can have enamel that may not have been formed correctly.  Also, bad teeth aren’t genetic, but some people’s teeth do have deeper pits and grooves than others.

These pits and grooves can be so deep that even a bristle on a toothbrush can’t reach down to clean them out.  In these cases, these people will almost always get cavities unless they have had sealants placed on these teeth when they were kids.

There are many other factors that influence how susceptible a tooth is to getting cavities.  I will only go over a few of the more common ones.

The first is the quality and amount of the dental enamel.  Pinkham’s Pediatric Dentistry text states that enamel hypoplasia (when not enough enamel forms), even at levels that are undetectable,  increases susceptibility to tooth decay.

Saliva also plays an important role in how susceptible a tooth is to decay.  The more saliva you have, the better.  To learn more about the role that saliva plays in your oral health, read How Saliva Protects Your Teeth and Six Main Causes of Dry Mouth/Xerostomia.

The last factor I will discuss that makes your tooth more susceptible to cavities is the wearing away of tooth structure.  This commonly occurs through the process of acid erosion, which can occur by drinking these nine teeth-dissolving drinks, however there are four ways that you can wear away your teeth.

4 – Time

Darius Rucker sang the following words Hootie & The Blowfish’s hit Time back in the 90’s

Time, Why you punish me? Like a wave crashing into the shore, you wash away my dreams.

Time can in fact wash away your dreams of having healthy teeth if you give the bacteria enough time on your teeth.  In fact, you can have all three elements above and not get cavities if you don’t give the bacteria time to eat away at your tooth.

Plaque eats sugar, which produces acid that slowly eats away at your susceptible teeth.  The key is to not give the bacteria enough time on your teeth.  You can do this by brushing and flossing regularly.

To learn more, read the article Try to Keep Your Teeth Below Freezing.


Cavities don’t just happen spontaneously.  You need four things to get cavities: sugar, bacteria, susceptible teeth, and time.

You can’t really control the bacteria unless you live in a sterile environment.  You also can’t control the genes that sculpted your teeth into their exact formation that might make them hard to clean. You can control how much sugar you eat, your oral hygiene, and how well you treat your teeth (don’t treat your teeth like tools!)

Do you have any questions, stories, comments, or concerns about what really causes cavities?  I’d love to hear them in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading!

At Home Teeth Whitening
©Igor Gratzer/

A few months ago, one of my patients asked me if the whitening products that you can buy from the store actually whiten your teeth.  She wasn’t too excited about the expensive price that our dental school charges for a custom bleaching tray and professional-strength bleach.

She was looking for a cheaper alternative.  There’s nothing wrong with trying to save money (as long as you don’t get caught up in an online teeth whitening scam), but the question remained: Do at-home teeth whitening products really work?

At Home Teeth Whitening: Does It Work?

At the time, I told her that they do work, but they’re not as effective as getting it done at the dental office because we can use a higher-strength gel than the whitening products that are available over the counter.  I hate answering patients questions when I’m not entirely sure what the answer is, so I decided it would be a good idea to research this question.

Does At-Home Teeth Whitening Really Work?

Crest WhiteStips Advanced Seal Professional EffectsI was able to find a systematic review, which is an academic paper that reviews lots of studies, eliminating the poorly designed studies, and tries to state the best-available evidence on a given topic.

The systematic review that I found from the Cochrane Collaboration states that at home teeth whitening products do whiten your teeth.  However, the effectiveness of the whitening varies based on the strength of the peroxide used in the product.  Here’s their explanation using their academically-appropriate big words:

There is evidence that whitening products work when compared with placebo/no treatment. There are differences in efficacy between the products, mainly due to the levels of active ingredients, hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide. All trials were however short term and the majority of the studies were judged to be at high risk of bias and were either sponsored or conducted by the manufacturers.  There is a need for pragmatic long-term and independent clinical studies that include participants representing diverse populations. There is also a need to evaluate long-term harms.

So, the verdict is in!  At home teeth whitening products do actually work to get your teeth whiter.

Before you whiten your teeth it is a good idea to visit your dentist (here’s six reasons why) and to be familiar with the two main side effects of teeth whitening.

Do At-Home Teeth Whitening Products Work For You?

I’ve only used over the counter teeth whitening products a handful of times.  The paint-on gel worked the best for me, while I never got very good results with teeth whitening strips.

How about you?  Have you ever tried whitening your teeth?  Did you notice a difference?  I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading!

Five Ways to Get Better Teeth
©Syda Productions/

Many people think they’re taking great care of their teeth. They brush and floss, but they still end up having problems.

I wrote this post with those people in mind: the ones that want to have better, healthier teeth, but don’t know quite where to start. Even if you know that you’ll end up needing crowns or veneers on your teeth, it’s important to have excellent oral hygiene so that your future dental work will last a long time.

Here’s five simple things you can do to get better teeth.

How to Get Better Teeth: 5 Things You Can Do Today

How to Get Better Teeth1 – Floss

Many people don’t want to floss because they think it’s too hard. Before I talk any more about flossing, go ahead and read the following quote from Kevin McCallister in Home Alone:

I took a shower washing every body part with actual soap; including all my major crevices; including inbetween my toes and in my belly button, which I never did before but sort of enjoyed.

Neglecting to floss is like simply taking a shower without cleaning all of your major crevices!

Learn more about the right way to floss by reading these 10 flossing mistakes.

2 – Brush for At Least Two Minutes

How long do you spend brushing your teeth every day? A lot of people only brush for 30 seconds or so.  By brushing for two minutes, you will allow the fluoride in your toothpaste to spend more time providing your teeth with its many benefits.

When you brush, do you remember to brush all sides of your teeth?

3 – Only Eat Sugar with Your Meals

Every time you eat, the pH in your mouth drops to a level where it can hurt your teeth. You can see a graph of this process in the article What Happens in Your Mouth Every Time You Eat or Drink.

The more times you eat in a day, the more times your teeth get hurt.  By eating your sugary snacks with a meal rather than on their own, you will be reducing the number of times that your teeth come under attack.

You can try substituting fruit or vegetables for a sugary snack or simply have a great-tasting chewing gum.

4 – Don’t Sweeten Your Coffee & Tea With Sugar

Try sweetening your drinks with xylitol or an artificial sweetener.  The bacteria in your mouth would love to get their hands on some sugar so they can hurt your teeth.  If you starve them, you’ll have better teeth!

Learn more about what xylitol is and how it protects your teeth.

5 – Don’t Drink Soda Pop In Between Meals

The main theme of the last three items on this list is that sugar is an enemy to your teeth.  Soda pop combines sugar and acid to wreak havoc on your teeth.

If you’re thirsty between meals, water and milk are good choices, and I’m not the only one saying that: the textbook Dental Caries by Fejerskov agrees with me.  It says, “Water and milk are safe drinks between meals.”

Ideally, you would cut soda pop out of your diet, but who wants to do that?!  If you absolutely must have your sugary, carbonated fix, check out these guidelines on how to drink soda pop and keep your teeth happy.


Hopefully you can try at least one of these five suggestions so that you can be on your way to having better teeth.

Do you have any questions or comments about how to get great teeth?  I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading!

Dessert Gum

When I was in college, I worked at a Texaco gas station.  One of the job perks was that the owners would let us take $2 worth of stuff during our shift.  I would always get two packs of gum and I ended up with a nice stockpile of chewing gum.

Extra Dessert Delights Mint Chocolate Chip GumTo this day, I still love gum.  Whenever I see new flavors at the store, I just can’t help myself.  A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were at the grocery store and a pack of Extra mint chocolate chip gum, just as tantalizing as the one in the picture to the left caught my eye.  We bought it and I had my first stick last night after dinner.

Why You Should Chew Gum for Dessert

Chewing this gum after dinner last night satisfied the sweet tooth that I get after dinner.  I noticed my wife open the cupboard door and grab some chocolate, but I didn’t really crave any – I was too preoccupied with the mint chocolate chip party going on in my own mouth!

Also, chewing gum after dinner can help clean food out of your mouth.  Chewing gum stimulates your salivary glands and helps you make more saliva.  After all, spit is good for your teeth!

The only downside with this particular brand of chewing gum is that it doesn’t have any tooth-protecting xylitol.  It looks like it’s mostly sweetened with sorbitol and aspartame.

Most Chewing Gum Is Good For Your Teeth

Pretty much any chewing gum is good for your teeth as long as it doesn’t contain sugar.  Just to make it clear, Extra didn’t pay may anything to write about them – I just happened to really like this type of gum and I’m excited to try the orange creme pop, the key lime pie and the strawberry shortcake flavors.  If another sugar-free gum floats your boat, by all means chew that one!  Some other great flavors of chewing gum are Orbit’s mint mojito and maui melon mint as well as Trident Layers cool mint melon.

Although what brand of gum you choose depends on your personal preferences, there are certain types of gums that are better than others.

To find out what types of chewing gum are best for your teeth, you can read the article Is Chewing Gum Good or Bad for Your Teeth?

Have You Tried Chewing Gum for Dessert?

Have you tried chewing gum after eating?  I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments section below.  What’s your favorite type of gum?  Let me know so I can try it.

Thanks for reading!

Chewing Gum Good for Teeth
©Lucky Business/

You may have heard that chewing gum is bad for your teeth and that chewing gum is good for your teeth.  So what’s the answer?

Chewing Gum Can Help Fight CavitiesChewing gum can be good and bad for your teeth depending on what type of gum you chew.

Gum can basically be classified into three different types based on how it is sweetened:

1 – Gum that is sweetened the old-fashioned way – with sugar.

2 – Gum that is sweetened with artificial sweeteners like aspartame.

3 – Gum that is sweetened with sugar alcohols such as sorbitol and xylitol.

Let’s take a look at all of these types of gum and how they affect your teeth.

Chewing Gum Sweetened with Sugar and Your Teeth

Super Bubble Chewing Gum - Sweetened With SugarWhen you chew gum sweetened with sugar, there are basically two phases.  In the first phase, which can last for 10 minutes or more, you are releasing sugar from the gum into your mouth.  The bacteria in your plaque love to feed on the sugar found in sugary chewing gum and hurt your teeth.  The sugar in chewing gum sweetened with sugar can stick around in your mouth for a long time and continue to feed the bacteria that live on your teeth, allowing them to harm your teeth.

After a certain amount of time has passed, you will enter the second phase of chewing sugary gum as you will have swallowed all of the sugar in the chewing gum.  Because the act of chewing causes you to make more spit, the chewing gum is usually able to promote re-mineralization of your teeth’s enamel after all of the sugar has left your mouth.

Chewing Gum Sweetened with Artificial Sweeteners

If you chew gum sweetened with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame or Sucralose, you will eliminate the first phase of chewing sugary gum that I mentioned above.  You will simply be stimulating the flow of saliva in your mouth.  This is a good thing because saliva can protect your teeth in many ways.

The textbook Dental Caries by Ole Fejerskov states, “Sugar-free chewing gum, in addition to being sweetened with non-cariogenic sweeteners, provides a gustatory and mechanical antidepressants stimulus to salivary flow and therefore may be considered as cariostatic.   Chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes following a meal or snack has been shown to accelerate the return to resting oral pH.”

Basically, Ole is saying that when you chew gum that doesn’t have sugar, it stimulates the flow of saliva due to the wonderful taste of the gum and because of the chewing action.  If you chew gum after you eat a meal, it will help your mouth return to an optimal pH.  If you’re not sure what that means, you can about what happens in your mouth every time you eat or drink.

Chewing Gum Sweetened with Sugar Alcohols

The last main type of chewing gum is the gum that is sweetened with sugar alcohols such as xylitol and sorbitol.  Xylitol has been shown to help fight against the bacteria that eat away your teeth.

Learn more about how xylitol protects your teeth!

Trident Chewing Gum that Contains XylitolChewing gum that contains xylitol is like the holy grail of chewing gum when it comes to your oral health!  When you chew gum that contains xylitol, you get all of the benefits of chewing sugar-free gum mentioned above.  In addition to those benefits, you get the cavity-fighting power of xylitol.

What more could you ask for in a little piece piece of gum?

If you’re wondering where to find it, xylitol is found in a variety of chewing gums, such as the  Trident gum pictured to the right.  You can make sure that the gum you chew contains xylitol by checking on the ingredient list on the back of the package.


In summary, here’s the three main types of chewing gums listed from best to worst for your teeth:

1 – Xylitol-sweetened chewing gum

2 – Artifically sweetened chewing gum

3 – Sugar-sweeteneed chewing gum

It’s also important to remember that chewing gum helps release saliva which helps to rinse sugar away from your teeth.

Do you have any questions or comments about how chewing gum affects your oral health?  I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading!

Mamelons on Teeth Wear Down
©Ilya Andriyanov/

Last July, I wrote an article describing mamelons, which are the tiny bumps that appear on the edges of newly erupted permanent front teeth.  If you missed that article, you can read it here: Mamelons, the Bumps On Your Child’s Permanent Teeth.

Mamelons Wearing Off On a Young Soccer PlayerAs we get older, our mamelons will naturally wear off if our teeth fit together properly.  If you have an open bite or your front teeth don’t touch each other when you bite down, your mamelons probably won’t wear down and you might consider having a dentist smooth them down if you don’t like the way they look.

This post is simply a series of four photos of permanent teeth in various stages of having their mamelons worn off.  Don’t worry, we’ll take a close-up look at our soccer star pictured above in one of the photos below!

How Mamelons Look As They Get Worn Down

First, let’s take a look at three permanent teeth that are just starting to come in.  You can see how pronounced the serrated ridges (mamelons) on the upper left tooth and the lower middle teeth:

Mamelons on New Permanent Teeth

Mamelons Wearing Down on Teeth

To the right you’ll find a close-up on the teeth of our little soccer champ pictured above.  At his age, you can still see some slight serrations and bumps on his four front teeth.  However, the mamelons are almost worn away.  They are not nearly as pronounced as the mamelons on the picture above of the permanent teeth that are just poking through.

Here’s two pictures of adults that have worn down their mamelons:

Mamelons Worn Down

In the picture above, you can see that her upper front teeth are mostly flat.  Many front teeth still have small curves and grooves to them, but they are for the most part, pretty even.

The picture below is a picture of a young woman who has worn down her mamelons and her front teeth have the normal “flat” appearance on the incisal edge.

Mamelons Worn Off


Hopefully this article helped you understand a little more about the gradual process that mamelons go through as they get worn away.

If you don’t like your mamelons and you’re still pretty young, don’t worry – you’ll probably end up wearing them away soon enough!

Do you have any questions, comments, or concerns about mamelons? I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!

Listerine Agent Cool Blue Review
©Andrey Popov/

A lot of people think that a popular dental health product, Listerine Agent Cool Blue, will show you where the plaque is on your teeth as plaque disclosing tablets do.

Listerine Agent Cool BlueI was under the same impression myself.  I got a bottle so that my son could try it.  Unfortunately, I realized after testing it that Agent Cool Blue isn’t a plaque disclosing solution.

Listerine Agent Cool Blue tints the teeth a very slight blue color.  The product is intended to make brushing more fun for kids.  To use the solution, your child swishes the solution in their mouth before brushing, which tints their teeth blue.  Then your child brushes their teeth and checks afterward to see if any blue remains on the teeth.  In theory, this enables the child to see which surfaces of their teeth were  missed when they brushed.

On the front of the bottle it says that it is a “tinting rinse.”  As you will see below, I find it to be a very poor tinting rinse simply because it is not very noticeable and because it is so easily removed.  I also believe most people are disappointed with it simply because most people assume that Agent Cool Blue dyes plaque, like traditional plaque disclosing solutions.  To its credit, it does have a nice minty flavor and, as a safety feature, the bottle measures exactly 10 milliliters for you as you can see in the picture above.

How Listerine Agent Cool Blue Dyes Your Teeth

Here’s a quick before and after picture I took after rinsing with Agent Cool Blue (the AFTER picture was taken before I brushed my teeth):

Listerine Agent Cool Blue Test

You will notice it does NOT show you where the plaque is.  But, as you can see from the photo above, my teeth did change color slightly.   Since the product is marketed towards kids, I think the color change needs to be more dramatic to really motivate them to brush.

To see a before and after picture with regular plaque disclosing tablets, read the article How Plaque Disclosing Tablets Can Help You Brush Better.

What Agent Cool Blue Claims To Do

Listerine Agent Cool Blue InstructionsTo the right is a picture of the back of the bottle.  I noticed that they never come out and say that it will dye your plaque blue.

Technically, Agent Cool Blue does what it is supposed to do — it tints the teeth blue.

In my opinion, the color change is not enough to really be effective.  I don’t think a 6 year old is going to notice if he got all of the blue off of his teeth since the color is so faint.

The simple fact that people think it should mark the plaque on your teeth has caused Agent Cool Blue to receive some terrible reviews at Amazon.  I couldn’t find one positive review.  Below, I copied some highlights from the reviews.

What People Say About Listerine Agent Cool Blue

Here’s an excerpt from a review that PghYinzer wrote about Listerine Agent Cool Blue:

This stuff does not do what I thought it does. I thought it stuck to plaque and showed the really nasty areas. My brother and I used some red disclosing solution as kids – I thought that’s what this was. Brush your teeth, use the red stuff, see how poor a job you did.

This just dyes everything pale blue. I guess in theory you have to brush everything to get all the blue off but it comes off very easily so it really doesn’t do much good.

Very disappointing. I’m going to purchase something sold as disclosing solution instead. I squeezed all of the agent blue out and poured it down the sink – total waste of money and total waste of counter space.

A Fan “Breezy” had this to say about Agent Cool Blue:

This stuff is useless. The taste is bad and it discolors the toothbrush bristles. It seems that even after a lot of brushing, teeth still retain a slight tint of blue.

The only slightly positive review I did find was from Noname, who said:

It was so pale, I don’t think most kids would notice. Just a slight brushing will remove it. In fact, if I brush one side and not the other, the toothpaste removes it from the whole mouth…The blue tint makes them spend more time brushing, so that earns this product a bump up to three stars.

Was Listerine Agent Cool Blue Ever Recalled?

Listerine Agent Cool Blue was recalled back in 2007 due to contamination with microorganisms.  The Listerine Agent Cool Blue currently on your local shelves should be safe.

If you go to the site above that talks about the recall, you’ll notice that they describe Agent Cool Blue by saying, “the rinse makes plaque show up blue on your teeth in an attempt to encourage better brushing.”  Even The Consumerist thinks that Agent Cool Blue sticks to plaque!


In summary, I wouldn’t recommend Listerine Agent Cool Blue with so many superior plaque disclosing solutions out there.

Do you have any questions, comments, or suggestions on how to better remove the plaque from your teeth?  Leave them below in the comments section.  Thanks for reading!

Using Teeth as Tools

This past weekend I went shopping with my wife and got a couple of new shirts.  The tags were stuck onto the shirts with a thin plastic string.  I usually rip them off, but only the tag came off.  With no scissors nearby, I almost used my teeth to get the rest off.  Luckily, I caught myself and was able to remove the annoying plastic string without using my teeth.

Many people damage their teeth by using them inappropriately.  Here’s a few things that you should avoid doing with your teeth in order to keep them as healthy as possible:

Don’t Use Your Teeth To Open Things

Swiss Army KnifeWhether it’s a beer bottle, candy bar, or one of those waterproof FedEx envelopes – resist the urge to use your teeth to help you open it.  Your teeth were not meant to open these things!  Using your teeth on foreign objects, especially bottle caps, can crack them, chip them, or cause malocclusion (poor jaw alignment) by wearing down your teeth unevenly.  Malocclusion can eventually lead to a type of jaw pain called temporomandibular disorder (TMD, commonly known as TMJ.)

Don’t Use Your Teeth As Scissors or Wire Cutters

Like I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I was tempted to use my teeth to cut a plastic tie.  While my teeth are poorly suited for this task, scissors are the perfect tool for such tasks.  I was simply too lazy to go and find a pair.

Do not Use Your Teeth as ScissorsAnother one of my bad habits is using my teeth to cut clear packing tape when the packing tape doesn’t come with a built-in cutter.  I’ve made an effort recently to find scissors when using this type of tape, but I still catch myself using my teeth occasionally.

Believe it or not, some people even use their teeth on wire.   As a kid, I often used wires, batteries, light bulbs, and small electric motors to build fun, not-very-useful contraptions.  The easiest way to remove the insulation from the copper wiring was to bite on it with my two front teeth.  I got to the point where I could do it very efficiently.  Luckily, my dad caught me doing this one day and told me I would ruin my teeth if I persisted.  He was right!  Fortunately, no permanent damage occurred and I started using wire cutters.

Don’t Use Your Teeth as a Third Hand

Try not to Use Your Teeth as a Third HandMy oral pathology teacher once showed us a picture of an elderly woman that had used her front teeth to hold pins while she was knitting and sewing.  Over time, she had worn small holes in her teeth where the pins were placed.  Every time she smiled, very small holes were visible on the bottom of her upper teeth.  A similar thing can happen when construction workers hold nails in their teeth.

Using your teeth to hold things can damage your teeth in the long run.  Also, if you had to hiccup or yawn, holding objects with your teeth  might cause you to choke.

Don’t Use Your Teeth To Chew On Foreign Objects

When I was in third grade, I noticed that lots of the cool kids were chewing on their pencils.  Being a conformist, I started chewing on my pens and pencils.  Sometimes during boring assignments, my classmates and I would compare our writing utensils to see who had inflicted the most damage with their teeth.

Similarly, many children get in the habit of biting their fingernails.  If they continue, it can damage their permanent teeth.

Although addicting, stress-relieving, and sometimes “cool”, biting on foreign objects can weaken or crack your teeth, chip them, and cause you to lose tooth structure.

Don’t Use Your Teeth as a Nut Cracker or Seafood Opener


Don’t use your teeth to crack open nuts.  As good as the nut tastes, you need to use something other than your teeth to crack the shell.  A nutcracker, perhaps?

Over time, the shell will act like sandpaper on your teeth, sanding away bits of enamel each time you open a nut.  If you do this regularly you will eventually be able to visibly see where you’ve worn away your teeth.

Using Teeth To Open Seafood
We can only hope that this boy didn’t open that shell with his teeth!

Another common misuse of teeth occurs when eating seafood.  In many places, seafood is served in the shell.  Although it may seem natural to use your teeth to remove the shell, the shells are often quite hard and could easily damage your teeth.


Teeth serve many functions.  They were designed to chew food, support our lips and cheeks structurally, and help us speak properly.  A healthy set of teeth also adds to your overall appearance and gives you an attractive smile.

If you want your teeth to function properly, you have to protect and take care of them.  As long as you use your teeth for their intended purpose, and don’t abuse them, you will be able to keep your teeth working well for a long time.

Keep Teeth Below Freezing
©Igor Stevanovic/

Inside of your mouth everyday there is a war going on.  Tiny bits of your teeth become casualties to the acidic weapons of your plaque.

If you take good care of your teeth, the tooth structure that is lost can be replaced and your teeth can remain healthy.

If you don’t take care of your teeth, plaque will grow on your teeth and eventually win the battle by forming a cavity.

The Iceberg Analogy

IcebergThink of an iceberg sitting in the middle of the ocean.  As long as the temperature is right, the iceberg will continue to exist in its regular shape and size.  But what happens if the temperature starts to get warmer and the iceberg starts melting?  If the temperature gets back to freezing quickly enough, then the ice that began to melt can re-freeze and remain part of the iceberg.  If not, it might be lost forever.

A similar phenomenon happens in your mouth.  Imagine for a moment that your teeth are made out of ice.  When you eat something that the bacteria in your mouth like to eat, such as any food containing sugar, then your teeth start to “melt”. You lose tiny bits of enamel from your teeth.  The sugar acts like the  sun.  If you continue eating it, it will keep eroding your teeth!