You may be doing all the right things to take care of your pearly whites – brushing, flossing and visiting your dentist regularly – but you may also have some common bad habits that’ll take a toll on your teeth. Break the bad habits below to keep your smile strong and healthy.
1. Biting your nails
Nail-biting often begins in childhood and is a tough habit to break, but if you continue to bite your nails, your teeth will pay the price even more than your manicure.
Biting nails can crack, chip and wear down the teeth. This bad habit can also lead to sore, torn or damaged gums and the transmission of bacteria and viruses from the hands to the mouth. Quitting this habit can go a long way toward keeping your tooth enamel intact and maintaining healthy teeth. A few ways to beat the compulsion to bite your nails include:
● Keep your nails trimmed short. Long nails can be an irresistible trigger for nail biters.
● Wear artificial nails.
● Apply bitter-tasting nail polish. This non-toxic coating is created specifically for helping people quit chewing on their nails. It’s available at most drug stores.
● Wear a mouthguard supplied by your dentist.
● Seek help from a behavioral therapist if you’re unable to stop on your own.
2. Using Your Teeth as Tools
If you depend on your teeth to perform a variety of odd jobs, like opening bags of chips, uncapping nail polish, or opening a stubborn cap on a new tube of toothpaste, you’re asking for trouble. Using your teeth as tools can crack or chip them or even cause poor jaw alignment from wearing the teeth down in an uneven manner.
Similarly, using your mouth to hold items can wear away at teeth over time. Habits like holding pins in your mouth while you sew can create small holes on the bottom of your teeth.
Do not use your teeth as a nutcracker. Not only do you risk cracking or chipping your teeth, but if you do this regularly, the shell can act as an abrasive and scrub away enamel every time you crack open a nut. Similarly, if you want healthy teeth, don’t use them to break open seafood shells.
Let your teeth do the primary job they are intended to do, which is to chew food. If you need to remove a clothing tag, reach for a pair of scissors. Use actual tools instead of your teeth.
3. Using Toothpicks
Some people always reach for a toothpick after a meal to remove food that’s gotten stuck between their teeth. Unfortunately, toothpicks are far from ideal tools for this purpose because they can cause tooth abrasion and can harm the teeth at their base near the gums. That damage can open the door to gum disease among other issues. The more often you use toothpicks, the greater the likelihood that you’ll damage your gums.
Swap out toothpicks for dental floss. If you want something more convenient than floss, pick up some interdental cleaners at the drugstore. These resemble toothpicks but are created specifically to fit into the spaces between teeth. Like toothpicks, interdental cleaners work best if you have space between your teeth.
Try to use toothpicks as infrequently as possible. If you must use them, be gentle. Overzealous use of toothpicks can damage tooth enamel and lacerate gums. Additionally, if you have veneers or bonding, you run the risk of chipping or breaking them if you’re not careful.
4. Drinking Sugary Beverages
Consuming too many sugary drinks can lead to a multitude of dental problems, including gum disease and tooth decay. Every time you drink a sugary beverage, the sugar coats your teeth. The bacteria that lives in your mouth starts to eat away at that sugar, producing acid as a byproduct. That acid will eventually begin to eat away at the tooth enamel. As the enamel gets thinner and weaker, it becomes susceptible to cavities. Even diet soda contains acid that is harmful to tooth enamel.
Some dental tips for preventing and reducing tooth decay include:
● Drink soda in moderation; that means no more than one 12 ounce can per day.
● Limit your consumption of other sugary drinks like sweet tea and sports drinks.
● Use a straw to keep sugars and acids off your teeth when you drink sugary beverages.
● Swish your mouth and teeth out with water after drinking something sugary if it’s not possible to brush your teeth at that time.
5. Smoking or Chewing Tobacco
It’s well known that smoking is bad for your health, but did you know it’s a major threat to healthy teeth too? Smoking and chewing tobacco can lead to tooth staining and halitosis, and they’re also risk factors for gum disease, which can lead to tooth loss.
Cigarettes and chewing tobacco are also serious threats to the health of your mouth because using them increases your risk of oral cancer. Due to the presence of numerous blood vessels and lymph nodes in the head and neck, this cancer can be aggressive. About 90 percent of people with oral cancer have used tobacco.
Smoking can lead to tooth decay, and it can be a challenge for a dentist to restore your teeth due to the tooth discoloration that goes along with smoking. Gum recession can lead to less than ideal aesthetic results at the margins of crowns and other tooth restorations.
It’s no surprise that the way to prevent or reduce your chances of experiencing these problems is to quit smoking cigarettes and using chewing tobacco. The Center for Disease Control provides five steps for quitting that you may find helpful.
Ask your dentist if you need help stopping any of these behaviors. By kicking these bad habits, you’ll reduce your risk of tooth loss and tooth decay, and in some cases, improve your overall health.