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7 Bad Habits That Can Destroy Your Teeth

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Practicing good oral hygiene — brushing your teeth, flossing, and regularly visiting the dentist — is a great way to keep your teeth and gums healthy. However, some bad dental habits can wreak havoc on your oral health. Here are seven of the worst dental habits and how you can stop them.   

Nail biting   

Does biting your nails ruin your teeth? It certainly can. This nervous habit can not only chip and crack your teeth, but it can also negatively impact your jaw. The repetitive and often uneven pressure placed on the jaw when biting nails can strain the muscles and joints of the jaw, contributing to TMJ disorders.    

Crowns, veneers, and fillings are not designed to withstand the type of pressure and stress that comes from biting hard objects like nails. If you’re a chronic nail biter, your dental restorations can become damaged or dislodged, necessitating costly repairs or replacements.  

Additionally, nail biting can introduce bacteria from the nails and fingers into the mouth. This can increase the risk of developing dental cavities and gum disease, as the bacteria can contribute to plaque buildup and infection in the gum tissues.  

To help break your habit, consider using bitter-tasting nail polish to stop yourself from putting your fingers in your mouth. Stress reduction techniques can also help curb your need to bite your nails.    

Brushing too hard   

You may think vigorously brushing your teeth is the best way to remove plaque and keep your teeth clean, but you might do more harm than good. Brushing too hard can wear down your enamel and irritate your gums, making your teeth and gums more prone to decay, damage, and sensitivity.   

When you’re brushing your teeth, think massage, not scrubbing. Since plaque is soft and loose, you can remove it by gently massaging your teeth.   

Using the wrong toothbrush   

In addition to brushing your teeth too hard, you may use the wrong toothbrush for your oral routine. While firm toothbrushes can help remove tooth stains, they aren’t recommended for everyday use because they may wear down your enamel, irritate your gums, and make your teeth more sensitive.    

If you’re using a firm-bristled toothbrush regularly, switch to a soft-bristled toothbrush with the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance.    

Teeth grinding   

Teeth grinding or clenching — also known as bruxism — can lead to several dental problems, including chipped teeth, fractured fillings, cracked crowns, damaged dentures, and joint pain. Stress and anxiety may trigger this bad habit, but you might also have an abnormal bite that causes you to grind and clench your teeth.    

When it comes to solutions, night guards are an excellent way to protect your teeth while you sleep. Since it’s hard to stop something while you’re sleeping, it’s best to protect the teeth and jaw with the night appliance. As long as your teeth and jaw are protected, clenching and grinding will not be a problem. 

Consuming sugary foods and drinks   

Indulging in a bag of candy or a bottle of soda is okay in moderation. However, consuming sweet snacks and drinks on a regular basis is detrimental to your oral health. Sugar is consumed by the normal flora bacteria that cultivate the oral cavity. The byproduct of bacterial consumption of sugar (glucose) is an acid which erodes the enamel leading to tooth decay.  

The best solution is to avoid these sugary foods and beverages, but if you decide to treat yourself, rinse your mouth with water afterward to clean away any remaining sugars. Wait an hour or so to brush after consuming acidic substances, to allow your dental enamel to recover.  

Using your teeth as tools   

Relying on your teeth to open packages, remove tags, or perform other tasks can also be harmful. This habit can put you at higher risk of cracking your teeth, injuring your jaw, or accidentally swallowing a foreign object. Your teeth are made for chewing food, so take a second to find a pair of scissors, bottle opener, or whatever other tool you need to complete your task.   

Chewing ice cubes   

Break this habit because chewing ice can really harm your teeth. Each time you crunch down on some ice cubes, there’s a chance of cracking or chipping your tooth enamel, which can lead to a dental emergency. And if you have dental restoration work, you run a real risk of damaging it and having to pay to get it done again.   

If you find yourself chewing ice mindlessly, chill your beverage before you drink it, avoiding ice altogether. If not, drink from a straw so you won’t be as tempted to chew that ice. Note that a strong desire to chew ice may indicate that you have anemia, check in with a doctor to see if you need treatment.  

Your dentist can help you break bad dental habits  

If any of these habits sound familiar, you can change your ways and help improve dental health. Breaking your habit might be difficult initially, but if you take small steps, you can kick it for good. A great start is by visiting your dentist to get a checkup and cleaning. You can start getting your smile back into shape if it’s not as healthy as it should be. And while you’re there, ask your dentist for ideas about how to break any bad dental habits you may have. Don’t be shy, your dentist has heard it all before.  

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