Your smile is the very first thing that most people will notice about you, and you want to leave a good impression, right? A bright, strong smile displays confidence and tells the world that you care about your appearance.

In fact, your daily routine is the single most important thing that you can do to create and maintain a perfect, white smile. A good program of dental hygiene begins and ends right at home.

Yet, even our best intentions can have disastrous results. Here are seven things that you could be doing that are damaging your teeth, without you even realizing it.

ddb8a-dentalimplantschicago1: Opening Packages with your Incisors

Using your front teeth like a pair of scissors is a bad idea. Opening a bag of chips, tearing off that piece of duct tape as you make a repair…those can all add up over time to damage your tooth’s enamel. The reason? The very tip of the incisor is also its thinnest part. This means that not only are you running the very real risk of chipping your front teeth, but you also are quickly wearing down the enamel, much like you would if you were grinding them together.

2: Doing Intense Workouts

Didn’t see this one coming, did you? For all the health benefits that it offers, working out can actually have a negative impact on our teeth. This is caused by two things: The dehydration that intense exercise can cause in the body combined with the dry mouth that comes from breathing hard for an extended time.

Dry mouth is characterized by a reduction in saliva, which leads to an increase in bacterial growth that can cause tooth decay. So while you should definitely work out, it isn’t a bad idea to drink lots of water during the effort. Also, chewing sugar-free gum will encourage saliva production, helping to prevent dryness.

3: Alcohol-based Mouthwash

Another surprise. While it is true that alcohol kills germs (feel the burn – that way you know it’s working,) alcohol also dries out the mouth, and a dry mouth breeds bacteria, as mentioned above.

This is the reason “morning breath” is so potent. Saliva production decreases at night, allowing bacteria to grow. So if you needed proof, there it is.

But if you insist that only alcohol can kill germs because you can “feel it working,” make sure that you rinse well afterwards, and again drink plenty of water.

4: Acid Found in Beverages

Everyone knows the risk associated with carbonated soda and the incredible amounts of sugar they contain. But did you know that their sugar-free counterparts are just as bad? This is because when you consume them, you are literally bathing your teeth in an acidic liquid.

What’s worse is that because people are led to believe that the sugar-free varieties are somehow “safer,” they tend to consume more of them, and are less likely to brush afterwards.

Also, in this category are citrus fruit drinks, including the wildly popular lemon water that everyone seems to think should be consumed several times a day. Acidic liquids will erode the enamel of your teeth over time, leading them to stain easily and become painful. In addition to that, acid will also temporarily soften the tooth’s enamel, so if you do drink an acidic drink, use a straw and avoid brushing for at least 45 minutes afterwards.

5: Chewing on Pencils and Pens

Chewing very hard objects such as pens and pencils is not something that your teeth were designed to do. Over time, chewing on objects can cause your teeth to shift and even create small hairline fractures. Another danger with regards to pencils is tiny wood splinters lodging in the tissue of the gums.

If you really crave something to chew, sugar-free gum is a far better choice.

6: Brushing Too Hard

This is an easy one to do because it seems logical that harder brushing will remove the most plaque and bacteria. Your best bet, though, is to brush regularly at least twice a day and use a soft-bristled brush, brushing for around two minutes. This is much more effective than simply going in hot and acting like you’re trying to remove rust.

7: Using an Abrasive Powder

Teeth-whitening is all the rage today, and for good reason: Who doesn’t want whiter teeth? But this is something that is best left to the professionals. Abrasive powders such as baking soda will grind away at your enamel like sandpaper.

What makes abrasives especially bad is that in the impatient rush to see immediate results, many people apply these products way more often than needed. Sometimes even daily.

Taken by themselves, these are not going to ruin your oral health. But you do need to be aware of them and how often you may be doing them, especially when taken together.

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