9 Dental Mistakes People Make

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Close up of dentists angled mirror in womans mouth

We all want that picture perfect, notice-me smile, but nine all-too-common dental mistakes may be getting in our way.

1 . We skip our yearly check-ups.

Whether fear of the dentist, cost concerns, or just a laissez-faire attitude about oral health, 100 million Americans don’t see their dentist for a yearly cleaning and check-up. Many of us only visit our dentist if there is something really, really wrong, but regular dental visits can spot oral health problems early when they are easier (and cheaper) to treat. What’s more, these visits can help prevent many oral problems from developing in the first place. Some individuals who are at high risk for gum disease should visit their dentist even more regularly.

2. We wait too long to get a new toothbrush.

Is your toothbrush an antique? If so, it may be a breeding ground for the bacteria that cause decay and gum disease. Also, worn bristles can’t clean as well. Most Americans replace their brush just once or twice a year, but the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends using a clean, new one every three to four months or once the bristles become frayed.  

3. We don’t clean or store our toothbrush properly.

We often make mistakes when it comes to keeping our toothbrush clean. The best way to clean a brush and keep it that way is to thoroughly rinse it with tap water after brushing to get rid of any left-over toothpaste and debris. Never store your clean toothbrush too close to another person’s toothbrush because germs can transfer.

4. We don’t floss well enough or often enough.

Flossing is essential for good oral health, but how and when you do it makes a big difference. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends flossing at least once a day. It’s easy to floss the front teeth and call it a day, but missing the back of your mouth including in-between and around your molars is a big mistake. Flossing removes the bacteria and food that lurks in-between your teeth where it will cause cavities, plaque, and gum disease. Ask your dentist for a quick tutorial on how, when and where you should floss each day.

5. We think cavities are just for kids.

Most adults have had at least one cavity, and more than 25% have some untreated decay. This sets the stage for root canal and/or tooth loss. During root canal, your dentist removes the inside of the tooth, and then cleans and seals it. It is much more invasive (and expensive) than having a cavity drilled and filled.

6.  We ignore warning symptoms.

Bad breath, bleeding gums, dry mouth, sores, lumps and/or thrush (a fungus infection in the mouth) are all red flags that something is wrong and you need to see your dentist. A growing body of research links a healthy mouth to a healthy body. Gum disease, for example, increases risk for heart disease, diabetes, and preterm childbirth.

7. We forget to brush our tongues.

Our tongues usually contain bacteria, and if we don’t brush or scrape them regularly, this bacteria leads to tooth decay and bad breath. Talk to your dentist about how and when to scrape your tongue.

8. We still smoke.

In addition to all of the other health ills associated with smoking, it also causes gum disease and stains teeth. Smoking hinders the immune system, which makes it harder to fight off a gum infection. If you smoke, it also impedes healing when your gums are inflamed. Talk to your doctor about how to quit.  

9. We drink soda.

Coffee consumption stains teeth and so does dark carbonated soft drinks. Soda–even the diet variety–is highly acidic, which means it can erode the enamel on your teeth. Even seemingly healthy but highly acidic citric juices or lemon- and lime-infused water can be harm teeth enamel. Caffeinated drinks and alcohol can also dry out your mouth. Without saliva, you can’t neutralize acids produced by bacteria or wash away food particles. Your best bet is to consume plenty of plain water 

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  1. Questions About Going to the Dentist. Mouth Healthy by the American Dental Association (ADA). http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/dental-care-concerns/questions-about-going-to-the-dentist/
  2. Statement on Toothbrush Cleaning and Storage. ADA. http://www.ada.org/en/about-the-ada/ada-positions-policies-and-statements/statement-on-toothbrush-ca...
  3. Flossing. Mouth Healthy by the ADA. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/f/flossing 
  4. Dye Bruce A, et al. Dental Caries and Tooth Loss in Adults in the United States, 2011–2012. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db197.pdf 
  5. Periodontal Gum Disease. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/GumDiseases/PeriodontalGumDisease.htm 
  6. Smoking, Gum Disease, and Tooth Loss. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention., http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/periodontal-gum-disease.html 
  7. 9 Foods that Damage Your Teeth. Mouth Healthy by the ADA. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/nutrition/food-tips/9-Foods-That-Damage-Your-Teeth/
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 12
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