But all too often, the very things we do to take care of our smile -- brushing, flossing and even rinsing with mouthwash -- can hurt rather than help our teeth. We chatted with New York-based cosmetic dentist Gregg Lituchy, DDS, of Lowenberg, Lituchy & Kantor (who's worked on the megawatt smiles of Naomi Campbell, Gisele Bundchen and Heidi Klum) to find out common mistakes even those with oh-so-thorough oral hygiene routines commonly commit.
While we can't promise you a supermodel smile, we can share nine ways you're unwittingly causing everything from tooth enamel erosion to plaque build-up and more.
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You Use Your Teeth for Everything
The tip of a tooth, explains Lituchy, is the thinnest -- and the quickest to wear. "The packaging on something like a bag of crackers can be hard to open. Pulling hard against it with the tips of teeth can cause them to chip," says Lituchy, who also advises against chewing on nails, pens or pencils for the same reason.
You're Brushing Too Hard
The most egregious mistake? "Brushing too hard in a back-and-forth horizontal motion," says Lituchy. "People think that if they're using hard bristles, they'll wipe away more plaque, but you can actually brush away your enamel and wear down the area where the gums meet the tooth structure, causing gum recession." So not a pretty look.
For those who scrub with gusto, that's hard news to swallow. In addition to easing up on the elbow grease, Lituchy suggests switching to a soft bristle brush. And instead of a using a harsh, side-to-side motion, he recommends brushing at a 45-degree angle away from the gum tissue, positioning the bristles under the gums and brushing bristles toward the biting surface of the tooth.
You're Not Defending Against Stains
Your Flossing Technique Is Flawed
Instead, gently ease dental floss between teeth and make sure you curve the floss around the tooth in a C-shaped arc. And don't let the thought of possibly harming your gums deter you from flossing, either. You'll cause way more damage to your gums letting the bacteria that lives between teeth and under gums thrive unchecked.