While brushing and flossing are two of the big “Dos” of dental care (along with seeing your dentist regularly), here are a few “Don’ts” to pay attention to as well. Here are six bad habits that can wreak havoc on your oral health.
1. Crunching on Ice
In addition to potentially annoying family and friends, chewing ice can cause a surprising amount of damage to your teeth. The combination of extreme cold and the hard surface 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
Often a side effect of anxiety, teeth grinding can begin without you even noticing. In fact, many people do it in their sleep. Whether it’s done consciously or not, this habit, also known as bruxism, can lead to major dental problems including: damaged enamel, chipped teeth and pain and tension in the muscles around the jaw. If you find that you’re grinding your teeth, consider trying a relaxation practice such as meditation or yoga or investing in a nighttime mouth guard.
3. Aggressive Tooth Brushing
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 irritate teeth and gums and lead to inflammation as well as increased tooth sensitivity. Switch to soft-bristled toothbrushes that are gentler on your teeth.
4. Sugary Snack Attacks
Snacking throughout the day is a major cause of cavities, particularly if the foods you choose are sugary 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 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. Using Your Teeth as Tools
Whether it’s biting your nails or opening a bottle with your teeth, 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, stick to using your teeth for what nature intended ... chewing food.
While this self-soothing behavior is fairly common in babies and young children, some people carry the habit into adulthood. If allowed to persist past the age of 4, 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.