Everyday Habits That May Damage Your Teeth And Healthier Alternatives
Oral hygiene is an important part of maintaining oral health.
If you brush and floss twice a day, every day and attend regular dental checkups, those are some of the most important steps to keeping your teeth and gums healthy. But, there are things you may do every day that may be harming your teeth, and you may not even know about it.
Even things like not replacing your toothbrush often enough may be setting your progress back a bit, or considerably in some cases.
In order to keep up good habits, you have to manage the bad ones. Here is a list of 15 everyday habits that can hurt your teeth, and some better alternatives.
1. Grinding and Clenching Your Teeth
Teeth grinding is a common bad habit for teeth. Whether you grind during the daytime or at night, the effects can be adverse. In fact, you may not even know you’re grinding your teeth if you do so during your sleep.
There are lots of reasons people grind their teeth including anxiety, stress, abnormal jaw, or missing or crooked teeth.
If you grind your teeth while you’re sleeping, you may notice extra tooth sensitivity, weak and cracking teeth, and more.
Your dentist will also be able to determine whether or not your grind your teeth and provide a solution.
If you grind your teeth while you sleep, your dentist may recommend a mouthguard to protect your teeth.
There are both over-the-counter options for mouthguards and custom fit guards that your dentist can have made for you.
Ready-made mouth guards tend to be less costly, but custom guards usually last longer and may fit your needs better.
If you grind during the daytime due to dental alignment issues, you may need some dental surgery or correction.
If your grind during the day due to stress or anxiety, try relaxing your jaw muscles, positioning your tongue between your teeth throughout the day, and cut back on substances like nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol in addition to considering counseling or therapy.
2. Nail Biting
Nail biting is another nervous habit that can be detrimental to your oral health and hygiene.
Nail biting is usually caused by stress and out of habit. It is considered a parafunctional habit, meaning that it is unhealthy and outside of what is normal.
Nail biting is bad for your teeth and gums for two reasons. For one, your teeth can crack, chip, and wear from repetitive behaviors like nail biting.
Nails are usually very hard since they protect your soft nail beds, so biting and chewing on them is hard on your teeth.
The second reason that nail biting is bad for your teeth is that your hands and fingers accumulate many harmful bacterias throughout the day through touch, and by introducing them into your mouth, you are encouraging infection.
There are many ways to help yourself break your nail biting habit, including addressing any anxiety or stress that may have helped you form the habit.
A few ways you can help encourage yourself not to bite your nails include sporting nail polish or fake nails to discourage nibbling, keeping your nails trimmed, or even applying a safe deterrent like lemon juice to your nails.
3. Chewing On Ice Cubes
Ice cubes cause all kinds of damage to teeth due to their extra cold temperature and brittle texture.
For some, chewing on ice is a habit that relaxes them and relieves stress, but it can seriously harm your teeth, causing fractures to the enamel.
You may not even notice the damage done, as the cracks may be microscopic, but will result in more extensive damage over time, weakening tooth structures.
Though crushed ice tends to be less damaging than chomping on full cubes, it’s still not ideal for teeth, especially soft, weakened, or sensitive teeth.
In fact, the addiction to chewing ice is sometimes considered a form of pica, a disorder in which individuals are drawn to chew on and consume objects of little to no nutritional value. Compulsive ice chewing can also be a sign of anemia.
As an alternative, if you crave the chewing, you can opt for softer, edible materials including carrots, apples, celery, etc. And if you crave the cold, try cold beverages or sucking on ice instead.
4. Consuming Foods and Beverages That Contain High Amounts of Refined Sugar
Many of us enjoy drinking soda and eating dessert. While these things are okay in moderation, in excess, these sugary treats can lead to many health problems.
Often individuals who consume too much-refined sugar in the form of soda, candy, desserts etc. may suffer from more cavities, increased bacterial production, more plaque, and even gum disease.
Refined sugars found in processed foods and beverages tend to be something that bacteria in the mouth like to feed on.
There are alternatives to high-sugar treats and beverages.
You can swap your soda out for freshly squeezed fruit juices or sugar-free club soda and aim to cut back on foods containing processed sugar.
However, most foods do have natural sugar in them, which is why you should always rinsing after eating something sweet.
You may even want to brush your teeth after meals, in addition to cutting back on sugar. For beverages, you may want to opt drinking through straws to reduce contact with your teeth.
5. Drinking Coffee
Coffee. It’s often a big part of many people’s mornings, but also a huge culprit in causing tooth stains.
Coffee is well known for helping tired adults around the world wake up and stay alert due to the caffeine found in coffee beans.
Caffeine helps your body to become and stay alert, even perform better in everyday tasks.
However, coffee isn’t ideal for teeth. For starters, due to the rich pigment of coffee, the beverage can cause deep staining on enamel surfaces.
The dark liquid can turn your teeth yellow, permeating the microscopic cracks and ridges in your teeth. Also, coffee is often taken with creamer, sugar, and other flavoring agents. This can affect your teeth adversely, rivaling the effects of sugary carbonated beverages on your teeth.
You can reduce coffee intake to help fight any staining you may have. You can also opt for sugarless and natural sweeteners.
You should also rinse your mouth with water or brush your teeth after drinking coffee to prevent staining. If you already have coffee stains, you may want to consider tooth whitening and practice better preventative habits in the future.
Smoking is one of the worst habits for your body.
There are all kinds of health risks and side effects associated with smoking, especially for your oral health.
Smoking involves nicotine and tobacco which can lead to bad breath, stained teeth, dry mouth, bone loss, increased plaque production, and even increase your risk for oral cancer.
With all of those risks for your teeth, if you do smoke or consume nicotine and tobacco products, you may want to consider quitting altogether for your overall health as well. However, it can be very difficult to kick the habit.
You can gradually remove nicotine from your daily life by using patches and other methods of slowly quitting known as nicotine replacement therapy. There are many programs for helping individuals to quit smoking. Here are a few tips-
● Avoid triggers such as alcohol
● Look for support from loved ones
● Don’t go cold turkey- Slowly remove nicotine consumption from your daily life
7. Brushing Your Teeth Too Hard/Too Often
More brushing is not always better.
Dentists recommend your brush twice a day, every day. If you have braces, the recommendation may be more frequent.
One of the most important things to remember when brushing your teeth is to brush relatively gently.
You don’t need to scrub extra hard to remove plaque. In fact, softer brushing may be more effective and cause less gum damage.
You can help yourself to brush more gently, you can start by relaxing your wrist.
Tension in the wrist is often the cause of brushing too hard. You may want to keep in mind that brushing harder is not more effective so that you lighten up your brushing.
8. Using Your Teeth As Tools
Most of us are guilty of using our teeth to open things every now and again, especially plastic packages.
Many people rely on their teeth for odd jobs like uncapping bottle caps and nail polish lids, pulling out watch stems, straightening fork tines, opening bags, and ripping tags off of purchases.
These kinds of behaviors can be very damaging to your teeth, causing enamel to weaken and even chip and crack.
To help yourself not to use your teeth for these small, damaging tasks, you should think about what you put in your mouth before you do so.
Opt for using real tools instead of teeth, like scissors, pliers, and even your fingernails in some cases. Teeth are tools meant for chewing, not for other everyday tasks.
9. Playing Contact Sports Without A Mouthguard
It’s always important to take all the necessary precautions when it comes to playing contact sports.
Contact sports are often very dangerous, causing many injuries. This is why protective gear and equipment is necessary at all times.
The best way to protect your teeth from damage during contact sports is by wearing a mouth guard.
Mouthguards are made out of flexible plastic and stop your teeth from cracking and shattering against each other.
They can also help to protect your jaw and shield the gums from damage. In addition, mouthguards may also help brace impacts to reduce and prevent concussions during contact sports.
There are lots of options for sports mouthguards, both readymade, and custom. They range in everything from size and design to color and style.
It’s better to use a well-fitted mouthguard for the best protection, but any mouthguard is better than no mouthguard at all.
Sports that you should use a guard for include football, rugby, hockey, and more. If you don’t know whether or not you need a mouthguard, ask your coach or consult someone who knows about sports safety.
10. Neglecting To Stay Hydrated
Dry mouth is a big culprit of damages to the mouth, teeth, and gums.
Saliva production is important for clearing bacteria from the mouth and washing away bacteria.
If you don’t stay hydrated, this can seriously inhibit saliva production in the mouth. This can lead to increased bacterial production which leads to increased plaque and risk for cavities.
Keeping hydrated is important for the whole body since the human body is over 70% water.
Increasing your water intake will do a lot more for your teeth than just increase saliva production, it’ll also help to hydrate your gums, protecting them and keeping them healthy. Also, just like saliva, water will wash away bacteria, food particles, and stain causing plaque.
You can help yourself to stay hydrated by keeping a reusable water bottle and setting reminders for when you should drink water. Also, in restaurants, try to opt for water over carbonated beverages as well.
11. Putting Your Fingers In Your Mouth
Just like nail biting, putting your fingers in or around your mouth is a bad habit for teeth.
Your hands and fingers are used throughout the day for all sorts of tasks.
Your hands and fingers attract and accumulate bacteria, and when you put your fingers in your mouth, you are introducing those bacteria to teeth and gums.
These bacterias can cause all kinds of problems in the mouth. These bacterias often cause plaque, cavities, and gum problems.
As an alternative, you can try eating healthy, crunchy foods like carrots, celery, and apples. You can even try gum and chew-friendly jewelry.
12. Eating Acidic Foods
Just like sugar, acids can cause damage to tooth enamel.
Acidic food like citrus foods, vinegar, alcohol, and tomato products can weaken tooth enamel.
Acidic foods tend to cause damage to teeth because acids wear away enamel. Once enamel is weakened, teeth are more vulnerable to staining, chipping, and cracking.
Ultimately, acid softens enamel, which may lead to demineralization. This is a serious issue because weakened and softened enamel can make teeth more vulnerable to cavities and decay.
The best way to help stop this kind of dental erosion is to cut back on foods high in acid. However, you don’t need to avoid all foods that are acidic.
A great way to help preserve and protect your teeth is to rinse your mouth out after eating acidic foods, or you can even brush your teeth.
Mouthwash is also an excellent alternative to brushing that kills bacteria and prevents acids from working into your teeth.
13. Chewing On Pencils and Pens
Just like many other nervous habits, many tend to cause damage to your teeth.
Chewing on the ends of pencils and pens is no exception.
Pencil chewers usually chew pencils or pens absent-mindedly. This can be caused by stress, or just by habit.
Some people find that they do so when they are lost in thought, or bored as it gives them something to do.
Pencil chewing it tough on teeth due to the brittle nature of pencils, but they are also dangerous to gums.
Small slivers of wood may break from the pencil and end up between your teeth, which can be very painful and damaging. Not to mention that graphite isn’t good for you or your teeth.
Pens aren’t much better. Though you’re less likely to come into contact with the ink, the plastic of the pen is very rough and damaging to enamel.
For all chewing habits, you should try to think before you chew, and redirect your chewing in healthy ways. You can get your chew on with healthy, crunchy snacks like carrots and apples, or you can even purchase jewelry that is specifically meant for habitual chewers.
14. Using Toothpicks
Toothpicks. You might use them to pick food out from between your teeth, or you might use them as something to chew on.
While using toothpicks gently for on-the-go flossing may be okay, frequent or rough picking may be damaging to the gums.
Toothpicks tend to be sharp, which is why they should be used gently and carefully. However, flossing is better for your teeth.
If you’re using toothpicks to circumvent another nervous chewing habit, you should probably find something more chew-friendly.
15. Using the Wrong Toothbrush
Using the wrong toothbrush is one of the most damaging things for your teeth.
Oftentimes, people assume that all toothbrushes are the same, but they are not created equally. A dollar-priced manual toothbrush is not going to work as well as an electric toothbrush of a higher price. It’s all about preference and features.
Bristles that are too hard are known to scratch the surface of teeth and damage gums, while brush heads that are too large are known not to clean in between and behind teeth correctly. There are lots of things you should watch out for when buying a toothbrush, and many more things you should prioritize.
As a general rule of thumb, go for softer bristles that are gentle and remove plaque, a smaller brush head for precision, a long handle for reach, and make sure it’s comfortable to hold.
Good Habits For Teeth
Since we’ve covered the top habits that harm your teeth, we’d like to give a few examples of good habits for your teeth that promote growth, circulation, and stronger enamel.
Brushing and flossing twice a day
This one many people tend not to follow.
It’s recommended that you brush twice a day to maintain good oral hygiene and health with a good toothbrush.
You shouldn’t forget about flossing either. Flossing is precise and removes both food particles and plaque from between teeth that a regular brush can’t.
Brushing and flossing twice daily decreases your chances of having cavities and gum disease, not to mention your teeth will be cleaner, whiter, and you’ll feel better overall with fewer bacteria in your mouth.
Replace your brush every three months
Once your brush starts to wear, it isn’t as effective in removing plaque.
This is why dentists recommend you replace your brush every three to four months. If you have an electric toothbrush, this applies to the brush head.
You can usually tell when your toothbrush has started to wear because the bristles may shed and bend, and it may not be as comfortable to use.
Also, bristles that have worn out may scratch gums and tooth enamel, potentially causing more harm than good.
Eating healthy foods
Eating healthy foods is good for your overall health, including your teeth.
A few foods that are healthy for you and your teeth include apples, celery, carrots, milk, yogurt, and more! There are lots of foods that promote oral health, and even tooth whitening.
Rinsing your mouth after meals
Just because a food is acidic or sugary doesn’t mean you need to avoid it altogether. But, to reduce and prevent damage to your enamel, you should aim to rinse your mouth with water after eating in general.
If you have time, it’s even better to gently brush your teeth after you eat. A quick one minute brush is recommended.
Visiting the dentist for bi-annual checkups
Just like visiting the doctor’s, you should visit the dentist for regular checkups as well to ensure that your teeth are clean and healthy.
Regular checkups can help to detect cavities sooner, catch gingivitis in its early stages, and address any problems before they really start.
Water is the best thing for your body, apart from oxygen.
Water has all kinds of benefits, including increasing and supporting saliva production and washing away food particles from in between teeth.
In general, you should opt for water as your primary beverage throughout the day. Water will also help the gums, keeping them hydrated.
This is very important for those with gum disease or any other gum problems, as hydration is soothing, brings down swelling, and encourages healing