As humans, we are regularly developing habits throughout our lifetime, and they aren’t always good ones. Bad oral habits are quite common, and a lot of them are formed unintentionally. These bad oral habits can cause problems, pain, and cost a lot of money to correct.
1. Biting Your Nails
The habit: This nervous habit can chip teeth and impact your jaw. “Placing your jaw for long periods of time in a protruding position can place pressure on it, which is associated with jaw dysfunction,”.
The solution: Bitter-tasting nail polishes, stress reduction, and setting small, realistic goals can help. If certain situations are triggers, hold something to keep your fingers busy.
2. Brushing Harshly
Scouring your chompers with harsh toothbrush strokes can leave them hurting instead of clean and healthy.
The habit: Brushing for two minutes twice a day is one of the best habits you can get into. Just make sure you’re not trying too hard. “Brushing with a hard toothbrush, or brushing too hard, can damage teeth and irritate gums,” says Dr. Matthew Messina.
The solution: Brush at least twice a day for two minutes with a soft-bristled toothbrush and massage the teeth gently. It will clean the teeth surfaces without damaging them in the process. “Don’t think ‘scrub.’ Think ‘massage, “Save the hard toothbrush for cleaning the grout in the bathroom tile.”
3. Clenching and Grinding
If you are constantly clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth (awake or asleep), it can damage your teeth and jaw. This habit is called bruxism, and it often arises from unrelieved stress. It wears down enamel leaving teeth and makes them vulnerable to decay. You may also find yourself with painful jaw or joint pain, or even fractured or chipped teeth.
Solution Relaxation exercises and staying aware makes a difference. A nighttime mouthguard can also help. “You’ll have less tooth damage, less pain and muscle soreness and better sleep.”
4. Chronic Snacking
Whether you continually snack or sip sweetened beverages throughout the day, both can hurt your teeth. And it’s not just bathing your teeth in sugary pools that can lead to cavities. Snacking on chips and carbohydrate-filled goodies feed your mouth’s harmful oral bacteria, resulting in plaque buildup and tartar that can harm your gums.
Instead: Quench your thirst and protect your teeth with good, clean water. In fact, hydrating with water will also prevent dry mouth by giving your saliva the solution it needs to clear out oral debris and bacteria during the day.
5. Heavy Drinking
Regularly drinking alcohol increases plaque levels in your mouth that ultimately leads to tooth loss. Since alcohol acts as a diuretic, it can reduce saliva flow (which can result in dry mouth).
Instead: Limit your alcohol intake and drink plenty of water in between to hydrate.
6. Ice cubes Chewing
Chomping on ice cubes might feel good on a hot day, but your teeth are not designed for it (especially when it is habitual and leads to cracks and chips). Both your teeth and ice are crystals, so the effect of rubbing them together can cause tooth damage, even potentially damaging dental fillings.
Instead: Consume your beverages through a straw to keep you from accidentally munching on ice. Be sure not to chew on the straw! Also, try chilling your drinks in the refrigerator beforehand.
7. Kick the Tobacco Habit
A tobacco habit not only stains your teeth but inflames your salivary glands so they can’t perform correctly. As if that wasn’t bad enough, smoking leads to bad breath, gum disease, increased loss of jaw bone density, and oral cancer.
Instead: Find a smoking cessation support program that works for you. Your lungs, teeth and gums will thank you!
8. Using Your Teeth As Tools
Your teeth are not tools! Do not use them to tear off tags, open a bag of chips, or hold your pen. And worse of them all open a bottle top.
Instead: Stick to biting and chewing your food with your teeth, and use the correct tools to handle everything else.