While brushing and flossing are two of the big “Dos” of dental care (along with seeing your dentist!), we’ve got a few “Don’ts” you need to pay attention to as well. Here are six bad habits that can harm your oral health.
1. Crunching on Ice... Not So Nice
In addition to potentially sending noise-sensitive folks into a fit of rage, the common habit of chewing ice can cause a surprising amount of damage to your teeth. The combination of extreme cold and hard texture can increase sensitivity and even cause cracks or chips in your tooth enamel. If it’s a crunch you crave, try carrot sticks or apple slices instead.
2. Grinding Your Teeth to an Unhealthy Halt
Often a side effect of anxiety, grinding your teeth can often happen without you even noticing. In fact, many people do it in their sleep. Whether it’s done consciously or not, this is unfortunately one of those bad habits that can lead to major dental problems, including damaged enamel, chipped teeth and pain and tension in the muscles around the jaws. If you find that you’re grinding your teeth, it may be worth practicing meditation or yoga to help you relax, or investing in a nighttime mouth guard.
3. Being Too Hard on Yourself, While You’re Brushing
It might seem counter-intuitive because we’re all taught the importance of brushing our teeth thoroughly, but brushing too hard can actually cause just as many problems, particularly as you get older. Too much pressure, or brushing with a hard-bristled toothbrush, can cause irritation around your teeth and gums and sometimes lead to inflammation as well as increasing tooth sensitivity. SO lighten up on yourself with soft-bristled toothbrushes that are gentler on your teeth.
4. Snack Attacks: A Losing Battle
Snacking throughout the day is a major cause of cavities, particularly if the foods you choose are high in sugar or are highly acidic. Plaque bacteria uses sugar to form acids which then stick to and attack the protective enamel on the surface of your teeth. Many sugary foods are also sticky, which means they stay on the teeth a lot longer and can leave a residue. Similarly, when you snack on highly acidic foods, such as lemons and citrus fruits, you may find that they irritate any sores in your mouth, and they’re also more likely to erode your tooth enamel, leaving your teeth without their protective coating. To maintain a healthy mouth, make sure to follow any sugary or acidic treats with plenty of water to help rinse your mouth out.
5. Mistaking Your Teeth for Tools
Whether it’s biting your nails or clasping your chompers around the cap of a cola, people often use their teeth as tools. This is one of the quickest ways to create a crack or even break off a chunk of your tooth — which could lead to pain and extensive dental work. To keep your pearly whites chip-free and intact, it’s best to use your teeth for how nature intended them, for chewing food.
6. Thumbs Down to Thumb-Sucking
While this is often a healthy, self-soothing behavior in very young children, some people carry a thumb-sucking habit into adulthood as well. If allowed to persist past the age of four, thumb-sucking can impact the development and alignment of the teeth, and it may may contribute to a higher risk of tooth decay. Encourage young children to kick the habit. It just may save their smiles — and save you a bundle in orthodontist visits!
For more advice on how to keep your teeth as healthy as they can be, see your dentist for regular checkups.