It’s Dental Health Week and, along with daily brushing and flossing, Wollongong orthodontist Shane Fryer is urging people to stop using their teeth to open drink bottles, tear off price tags, crunch on ice cubes and more.
Habits such as these, as well as an increase in lip and tongue piercings, are leading to more chipped and broken teeth and damaged gums as well as swelling and nerve damage according to Dr Fryer, former president of the Australian Dental Association.
Meanwhile booze, smokes, drugs and oral sex were also causing major dental damage, and increasing people’s risk of oral cancer.
“That’s why the Dental Health Week campaign this year moves outside the traditional messages, like ‘brush your teeth and don’t eat too much sugar and all your problems will be solved’,” Dr Fryer said.
“We’re taking a broad brush approach that you need to maintain good oral health overall, and there’s a range of ways you can do that.
“You not only need to look at what you eat and drink, you need to think about how you use your teeth, what piercings you have and what your personal habits are.”
Dr Fryer said dentists often saw the damage caused from patients eating the wrong things – like ice or popcorn kernels or using them in place of bottle openers or scissors.
“Our teeth aren’t tools – we need to treat them with respect,” he said.
“We just need to think before we do silly things like opening drink bottles with our teeth or biting into something hard.
“Tooth enamel is the hardest tissue in the body – but it’s not indestructible.”
Mouth piercings often caused damage to teeth and gums.
In severe cases, nerve damage from piercings could affect facial movement or even result in permanent numbness, speech impediments and loss of taste.
“If you have lip or tongue piercings, then you need to go to the dentist on a regular basis,” he said.
Dr Fryer said people also needed to be aware that activities like oral sex, heavy drinking and smoking could increase the risk of oral cancer.
“Most people are aware of the general health risks posed by excessive smoking and drinking, or unprotected oral sex, but most don’t realise these behaviours can damage your teeth, gums or mouth,” he said.
Soft drinks or energy drinks were another concern, due to the high sugar/acidity levels.