We know that we should be brushing our teeth twice and floss at least once a day. These are very good habits to have that you will be grateful for later in life. But are there habits that damage the health of your teeth and gums? Indeed there are. We look at some of the don’ts for a healthy, beautiful smile.


Grinding your teeth (also known as Bruxism)

Although enamel is the hardest substance in the body, grinding your teeth together out of habit is one of the most detrimental things you can do to your teeth. ¬†People usually do this because of stress and anxiety. This is something you would want to discuss with your dentist. Stress and anxiety is not just bad for your teeth. It is bad for your overall health. If you are stressed and anxious reading this might even make you more stressed and anxious. That is not the goal. Make an appointment with a professional that can help you with stress and anxiousness. Don’t take life too seriously :).

Some people do this in their sleep and are totally unaware that they are grinding their teeth. If you regularly wake up with aches and pains in your jaw you might be doing this in your sleep. If you suspect that you might be doing this go for a dental checkup to be safe. A dentist can prescribe a mouth guard that will protect your teeth.


Too much sugar intake

Sugar causes tooth decay. Why is this? Bacteria that live in your mouth easily break down the sugar into an acidic form that weakens your teeth and ultimately causes tooth decay little by little. Protect your teeth by brushing and flossing after eating candy and starch (candy and starches break down into acidic form really easy and it is actually the acid thatcdoes the damage).

Thumb sucking

Sucking your thumb as a child can cause the jaw bones to shift. This may cause a bite problem later in life. It may require surgery or braces if you have had prolonged thumb sucking. Prevent this silly habit in your child and save a lot of money later in life.

Using your teeth as a tool

You might think this is a joke but you would be surprised how many people break their teeth trying to open a bottle or tear open a plastic bag. Resist that temptation. It is not worth the pain of broken teeth or the hundreds or even thousands of rands in dental care it might cost you to fix this. Rather go get that bottle opener or scissors.


There are some things you need to avoid. Your teeth are a valuable part of your body. But many people realize this only after they lost them. Be true to your teeth and they won’t be false to you!


Different groups of people have different needs. For some people visiting the dentist biannually (twice a year) is fine. For others it is better to visit the dentist quarterly and for some only once a year can be fine. Certain groups of patients run a higher risk for dental problems.

Toddlers should start going to the dentist when they are two or three years old. In ideal circumstances you could take them just after their first birthday for the first check-up. When they are still very young they will be less inclined to feel scared of these appointments because we all know going to the dentist is not always the most
pleasant experience and especially for a child it can be frightening.

Teens grow very fast. The shape of their jaw and their bite is changing rapidly. For this reason it is good to take your teenager to the dentist biannually so the he can spot any growth abnormalities early on and can take the needed preventive actions. It could save you money in the long run. It can also save your teen the awkwardness of having to get braces later in life for cosmetic reasons.

Increased build up of hardened plaque is a common problem with smokers. Hardened plaque is caused when plaque is not flossed out or brushed of regularly. This hardened type plaque is called tartar. Cigarettes contain chemicals that are foreign to the mouth. This causes all sorts of problems and nasty build ups. The chemicals also hinder normal functioning of the cells in your gums.

Smoking makes your teeth turn yellow. The same substance that also makes your fingers turn yellow, the tar is responsible for this. So not only does smoking make your teeth decay easier, it also has cosmetic implications. Quarterly visits for smokers are highly recommended.

People that suffer from diabetes
Patients with diabetes run a higher risk for oral and dental health problems. The reason for this is that diabetes has a negative effect on the soldiers that protect your body from infections, the white blood cells. Because of the high numbers of bacteria that are present in the mouth the white blood cells play a significant role in oral health. Try to see your dentist biannually or more if you suffer from diabetes.

People that are HIV positive
People that are HIV positive are at greater risk for oral and dental diseases for the exact same reason that people that suffer from diabetes are. The white blood cells are weakened and the risk of infection is higher. The ability to fight off infections is lower. Also try to see your dentist biannually.

A lot of studies have been done to find out what the ideal frequency for dental visits should be. These studies are inconclusive because of the high amount of factors at play in the dental health of a patient that has to be taken into consideration. People that go to the dentist regularly are more inclined to take better care of their teeth. A dentist appointment serves as a reminder to floss and brush your teeth regularly. Another factor is that people tend to value things more when they are paying for it. Your teeth are no different.

There are a lot of dental patients that can tell you they wish that they had taken proper care of their teeth and gums. You never hear anyone say that they wish they had taken less time to floss and brush. So try to get into a daily routine of brushing your teeth twice and flossing them once.

As a rule of thumb you should be going to your dentist at least once a year and more than that if you fall into one of the higher risk categories that we just discussed.

How to choose a dentist

It is important to get your regular dental check-up. If you’re in a small town in South Africa and you are unwilling to travel far to get to your six monthly dentist appointment you might have to be willing to settle for the closest dentist. There might not be a lot of choices. Some rural towns in South Africa don’t even have a dentist. Or he only comes by once or twice a month. Residents are forced to travel to nearby cities or larger towns in emergencies.

When deciding on the right dentist there are many factors to consider but they are usually personal or regarding your own preferences. South African dentists are some of the best dentists in the world and go through a rigorous medical degree and training. The chances of a South African dentist being terrible at his job is fairly low but we do have some pointers for you if your local dentist is not an option for you.

Ask friends or your current dentist if you are relocating

The best approach to find a regular dentist is to ask your current dentist to refer you to a good colleague if you are relocating or you can ask your friends and family to refer you. If you don’t have a dentist at the moment or close friends and family in your new location yet ask your general practitioner to refer you to someone. He will definitely be able to help you. Medical personnel move in the same network and have knowledge of others in the profession.

Objective of visit

Another very important thing to consider is the objective of your visit to the dentist. If you are in pain and need the toothache to stop immediately the best thing to do is just to search for the closest dentist on the internet. If however you are searching for a cosmetic dentist or an orthodontist you should use the referral approach or do your research diligently.

Appearance of dental office and equipment

Appearances can be deceiving. The most beautiful offices or highest consultation prices doesn’t necessarily guarantee the best dental care. But it is a good indicator of the pride a professional takes in his or her work. Beautiful offices and good equipment does give you a hint that there are in fact other patients that are helping to fund the particular dental practice by their regular support. The conclusion you can make is that they’re happy patients because more often than not patients, like consumers vote with their money.


Hygienic offices and equipment is an obvious must. Friendly and helpful staff is also something that you would want, especially if you are looking for a regular dentist or practice to visit. Choose a dentist that you are comfortable with. If you are in pain just find the closest professional and go.

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