These days, I often find myself staring at my microwave, impatiently waiting the 60 seconds needed for a cup of steaming hot tea. I have to remind myself that I used to wait far longer to boil water on the stove for the same thing. It seems we have grown ‘in a hurry’ for everything these days. In many ways, our world has evolved positively in this regard. For example, I appreciate the technology that enables me to digitally ‘x-ray’ a patient’s teeth and have the image appear immediately on a computer monitor that the patient and I can view together.
There are things that shouldn’t be hurried, however. Eating is one of them. The old rule of thumb of “chew every bite at least 26 times” has been overtaken by a rash of fast food restaurants and portions that can be super-sized. This seems to have created an eating frenzy, where Americans are eating too quickly and taking large bites as they eat on-the-run. When you hurriedly eat large chunks, you risk chipped teeth and aggravating the TMJ joint.
When you take large bites, you may be opening your mouth to the point where it becomes uncomfortable (especially a problem for those with TMJ disorder). And, because digestion begins in the mouth, insufficient chewing fails to break down food, sending it unprepared into the gastrointestinal system. When we bite into hard candy, rather than savor it in our mouths as it dissolves, we risk chipping or fracturing teeth.
Slow down, for the good of your oral and overall health. Take smaller bites or cut food into smaller pieces. Chew each bite thoroughly and try not to be distracted while eating. Also, avoid chewing ice, popcorn kernels or cracking nut shells with teeth. These items are common causes of tooth breaks and chips.