Skip the Chip: How to Prevent a Broken Tooth
While your teeth can’t lift weights to get stronger, you can care for them in a way that keeps them at their best. Preventing a broken or chipped tooth involves a three-step plan:
1. Care for your teeth on a daily basis
2. See your dentist twice a year
3. Break bad habits and avoid foods notorious for causing chips
Daily Care to Prevent A Broken Tooth
Which type of chair would you rather sit on: one with all its legs or one with a leg missing? When your teeth are at their strongest, you are more like the chair with all its legs, ready to support the foods you chew. To keep your teeth as strong as possible, brush your teeth twice a day, especially before you go to sleep. This isn’t just to keep your breath fresh — tooth brushing removes plaque on your teeth that attract bacteria that eat away at your protective enamel. When you lose enamel, your teeth become weaker, which means chipped or broken teeth happen more easily.
Here’s a surprising tip for keeping your enamel strong: When you eat or drink something acidic, such as a soda or orange juice, don’t brush your teeth immediately after. While you may think you are getting the acids off, your tooth enamel is at its most vulnerable then. Wait 30 minutes, then brush, or brush before you eat the acidic food, to keep from brushing your tooth enamel away along with your acidic food.
You also need to floss on a daily basis, freeing plaque from crevices that can weaken your teeth.
“Flossing is probably the best thing in the world people can do to protect their teeth,” says W. Frank Johnson, DDS, a dentist in private practice in Hixson, Tenn.
Visit Your Dentist
Unless you have x-ray vision, a trip to your dentist every six months is in order to prevent broken teeth. Your dentist can examine your teeth and determine if you are at greater risk for chips or cracks thanks to sensitivity, plaque buildup or cavities. He also can help to identify any chipped areas you may not even know you have.
Another preventive tool your dentist can offer is a mouth guard. If you have a tendency to clench or grind your teeth when you sleep, the wear and tear on your teeth can quickly lead to a chipped or broken tooth. Your dentist can inspect the surfaces of your teeth since worn surfaces can indicate you are grinding your teeth at night. While over-the-counter options are available, your dentist also can offer a custom-fitted mouth piece that won’t slip or slide as you sleep. The result is less pain for you and less likelihood you will chip or break a tooth.
Break Bad Habits
If you have a love of biting your fingernails or chewing on ice, you’re doing the things that can contribute to a chipped or broken tooth. All it takes is one wrong bite on a bagel, nuts or piece of hard candy, and you can chip, crack or break a tooth. While you should still be able to eat foods you enjoy, think of ways to make them softer or just don’t chew them up.
Another bad habit is clenching your teeth. If you live a high-stress life, you may find yourself grinding your teeth, which weakens them. Take a walk, read something you enjoy or spend 10 minutes meditating. The more stress you eliminate, the less likely you are to clench your teeth.
Of course, there are some accidents or traumas that can’t be prevented. If you chip your tooth due to a fall, car accident or sports injury, seek dental treatment immediately. A chipped or cracked tooth can expose the sensitive parts of your teeth and lead to serious pain and even more serious damage.