Health Watch -- Dental Health

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Good dental health goes beyond brushing and flossing.

As National Children's Dental Health Month draws to a close, oral surgeons at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say good dental health lessons should go beyond just brushing and flossing. Dental health isn't only about learning good habits. It also requires avoiding bad habits.

One bad habit that can wreak havoc on your teeth is crunching hard objects, like ice or hard candy. Experts at UT Southwestern say that over time, that habit can chip tooth enamel or break teeth at the gum line. Using your teeth as tools to tear off close tags or bite off string can have a similar effect.

Enamel protects the inside of the tooth from pressure and the bacteria that cause decay. Even though enamel is the hardest surface in the human body, it can still be damaged. Once there are cracks in the enamel, teeth are left more vulnerable to damaging bacteria.

Ordinary chewing doesn't damage teeth because the pressure is spread over a wider area. But when you crunch down on something hard, that creates intense pressure in a particular area, making damage more likely.

So besides teaching children good habits like brushing and flossing daily and visiting the dentist twice a year, help your children learn to avoid bad habits, like crunching ice or using teeth as tools. You should also avoid doing these things, yourself, so you don 't set a bad example.


Feb. 2004