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Your Teeth as Tools

Imagine: you have your hands full of grocery bags and mail. You want to get everything in one trip, so you leave your keys out of your pocket. Where do you put them? For convenience, many of us may put our keys in our mouths. Unfortunately, this can damage your oral health. In fact, many of us will resort to using our teeth as makeshift tools to open packages or tear tags. This may seem like a harmless action. However, this can have several unintended dental effects. 

Your Teeth as Tools

Designed for Chewing, Not Chores

Teeth are perfect for the main purpose of chewing and breaking down food. Each tooth’s shape, structure, and strength are optimized for chewing different textures and types of food. While we may utilize our teeth for different purposes, we can damage them in the process. 

The Risks of Using Your Teeth as Tools

There are many risks when using your teeth as tools.

Chips, Cracks, and Fractures

Using your teeth to open bottles, packages, or even crack nuts can exert too much force on your teeth. This can lead to chips, cracks, or fractures. These can damage the look and function of your teeth. Additionally, chips and fractures can cause pain or discomfort. They can even lead to tooth decay or an infection. When there is a break in the enamel, bacteria can get within the delicate part of the tooth. 

Dental Work

If you use your teeth as tools, you can even damage your dental work. Fillings, crowns, and veneers can break or become dislodged with too much force. This will lead to the need for repairs or replacements. Unfortunately, broken restorations can cause more damage to your teeth and cost more money to fix. 

Dental Erosion

Even if you don’t chip a tooth, using your teeth as tools can damage your teeth over time. Some actions, such as tearing open packages, can wear away at your enamel. This is the protective layer over your teeth that prevents decay and breaks. Erosion exposes the sensitive inner layers of your teeth. Not only does this cause discomfort and sensitivity, but it can also increase your risk of cavities. 

Jaw Joint

You can even cause damage to your jaw joint. When you don’t use your teeth properly, you can strain the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This joint connects your jaw to your skull and allows you to open and close your mouth. Strain to this joining can cause TMJ disorders or jaw misalignment. TMJ disorders can cause pain and tension in the joints and muscles of your face. Over time, TMJ can lead to headaches, clicking in the joint, and even difficulties opening and closing your mouth. 

Gum Injury

Misusing your teeth can lead to gum injuries. Forcefully using your teeth can cause you to injure your gums. While using your teeth, the object in your mouth can slip, creating cuts or tears. With time, it can even cause gum recession. Damage to the gums can cause pain. But, they are also vulnerable to infections. 

Finally, using your teeth as tools can introduce foreign bacteria into your mouth. While this can increase the risk of dental issues, it can also raise your odds of getting sick.