As a dentist, subconsciously, the first thing I notice about a person is their smile, and I can assess your teeth in a few seconds. However, to a random person, they might not be able to tell or notice what I will notice in those seconds.
You might wonder, what else, as long as I keep them clean and have a beautiful smile?
While your body language can reveal your emotions, and your eyes are a window to your soul, your smile and teeth reveal more than you know.
When I joined the children's church, I played a guessing game with the kids. I was going to guess their ages. All they had to do was open their mouths wide to have a look. If I got it right, they'd tap a foot once, and if I got it wrong, they'd tap a foot twice. So we had someone record, and I was accurate for most of them…. 96% success. After all, I'm a dentist, and I ought to know.
Especially for children, the teeth reveal their ages because a certain amount and type of teeth should occupy the mouth at a certain age.
Then as we get older, our teeth experiences wear, but the degree of wear is not proportional to age but the arrangement of teeth and habits.
The funny thing is the teeth; the oral environment generally never lies. So, several habits can be revealed from just examining the teeth surfaces.
Oral Hygiene Practices
You cannot lie to your dentist about this; what you see is what it is. If you don't brush and floss regularly, your teeth rattle you. There will be an accumulation of plaque and even calculus on the surfaces of your teeth and even in the interdental areas (the space between two teeth).
Plaque is the soft sticky deposit on the surface of the teeth that houses bacteria. After you eat or drink, bacteria in plaque produce acids. These acids can erode the tooth surfaces, enamel causing caries (cavities). However, calculus, also called Tartar, is the calcified form of plaque.
Smoking and Alcohol
Even if you can't see the difference in your teeth after smoking or drinking, your dentist will always be able to tell.
I once had a patient who presented at the clinic with black stains on his teeth and wanted them gone. When I asked about his social history, he told me, "I don't smoke or take alcohol; I'm a pastor." It sounded too familiar; you'll understand that phrase better if you're Nigerian.
So, I pressed further and asked if he had ever smoked; he said the stains had always been there long ago, so he wanted them off.
Extrinsic stains and gum disease are the two most obvious indicators of these habits. If the effects of smoking do not show on the exterior surface, you can be almost certain that the interior surfaces of your teeth will have stains.
This is a habit where you grind or clench your teeth. If anyone has mentioned you grind on your teeth when you sleep, then that's Sleep Bruxism. Some unconsciously grind on their teeth when awake, Awake Bruxism.
Effects on the teeth
The tip or surfaces of the teeth appear flattened, and they may be fractured or chipped.
Also, there can be wearing away the tooth's outermost surface, the enamel, which exposes the dentine and causes tooth sensitivity. You might feel pain if the pulp gets exposed.
Other signs include tight jaw muscles as the muscles are in a constant state of contraction. Hence, they are tired, so you might experience a locked jaw or Trismus. Headaches and earaches are not uncommon though ear pathologies do not cause the earaches.
Other habits, such as Nail biting, affect the teeth depending on the frequency. Most people believe that the teeth are much tougher than the fingernails, but nail biting can cause significant damage to the teeth over time.
I know this how? Asides from being a dentist, I used to bite my nails too. I just cast myself publicly, but it is what it is. Though I only do it when i'm anxious, I've made significant progress over the years because I know the detrimental effects, and I love my smile.
Nail biting can cause chipping away of the teeth' surface due to the grinding movement that occurs when you bite those nails.
Thumb Sucking/ Digit sucking and Tongue thrusting
This particularly concerns children because both habits are commonly seen in them.
What effects does it have on the teeth?
Anterior Open Bite: The mechanism behind this is not far-fetched. When children in their developmental stage suck on their thumb or digits or thrust their tongue, there is always interference between their upper and lower teeth front teeth, causing a space, so their teeth at the front do not meet, though other teeth are touching.
This causes lisping or even speech impediment as the child finds it difficult to pronounce certain words, especially those containing consonant sounds like D Or T. It can even cause psychosocial issues or affect confidence, especially if a child is being bullied for it or mocked by friends.
It can also cause malocclusion as the teeth grow in an abnormal direction. For some children, their upper front teeth are proclined or shooting out as the pressure from the thumb while sucking pushes out the upper anterior teeth.
I once read a dental journal in my 200l, and the author said, "just as the eyes are the window to the soul, so is the mouth to the body." Nothing is truer than that, and it excited me more about dentistry.
Several Systemic Diseases are first diagnosed on a dental chair. Interesting right?
A patient came to the clinic and told me most of these teeth were shaking, and two had fallen off. He was scared to eat hard foods, so he was feeding on a soft diet. I checked his Blood sugar, and it was over the roof. I then asked him if he had ever been told he has diabetes? No one. He was first diagnosed on the dental chair.
So I referred him to endocrinology for further management because there's no treatment until the underlying condition is managed.
Your teeth can also reveal information about your Personality, as I stated earlier, if you are an anxious person, nail-biting, or even Bruxism.
Studies have also shown that sharper canines suggest more aggressive tendencies. In comparison, people with passive personalities tend to have not-so-sharp canines.
Henceforth, When you hear the phrase "your smile says a lot about you," I'm sure you'll understand it better.