Protect your pearly whites! Learn about the nine habits that harm your teeth and get practical tips to break these habits for a healthier smile.

Your teeth, if treated well, can serve you for a lifetime. We only get one set (two if you count baby teeth), and that’s it. They have to do. Something we all know, and we’re told from such a young age to brush twice a day, not eat too much sugar, and basically do what we can to take care of our mouths. Yet, startling statistics reveal that 178 million Americans have lost at least one tooth, with some 40 million missing all! And with 92% of adults and 42% of kids aged 2-11 experiencing a cavity, protecting oral health is undeniably crucial. And it pays to look after yourself. After all, how much better do you feel when you can confidently smile? How much happier are you day-to-day when you’re not living with agonizing tooth pain?

Get some simple oral habits to look after yourself, and you’ll see so many improvements in so many areas of your life. That’s what we’re discussing today as we reveal the nine Everyday Habits Potentially Ruining Your Teeth. The kicker? You may not even realize they’re affecting you. Let’s get into it.

 

Habit #1: Not Brushing Properly

By far, the worst habit for oral health is not improper brushing. Sure, you may spend four minutes a day at your sink, but if you’re not brushing correctly using healthy techniques, you can actually be doing more harm than good. Think overbrushing. When teeth aren’t brushed correctly, plaque accumulates, leading to cavities, gum disease, and even tooth loss in the long run.

To ensure wholesome protection and care for your teeth, adopt these practical tips for proper brushing technique:

  • Angle the bristles: Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums.
  • Circular motion: Gently brush with short circular strokes, covering each tooth surface.
  • Don’t rush: Take a full two minutes to brush your teeth, reaching even the hard-to-reach areas.
  • Choose bristles wisely: Use a soft-bristle toothbrush, as hard bristles can erode your enamel and cause tooth sensitivity.
  • Routine replacement: Replace your toothbrush every three months or when the bristles appear frayed, whichever comes first.

 

Habit #2: Using a Hard-Bristled Toothbrush

The use of hard-bristled toothbrushes might seem like a good idea for thorough cleaning, but they can actually lead to unwanted damage. Excessive pressure and sturdiness of brush bristles can cause enamel erosion, receding gums, and increased tooth sensitivity.

To keep your teeth and gums healthy, we recommend opting for toothbrushes with softer bristles:

  • Soft-bristle toothbrushes: Choose brushes that are labeled as “soft” or “extra soft” to prevent damage while still effectively cleaning your teeth.
  • Manual or electric: Whether you prefer a manual toothbrush or electric one, the key is to use gentle motions while brushing.
  • Quality matters: Invest in a quality toothbrush, looking for those that have earned the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance.
  • Test for softness: When purchasing a new toothbrush, gently press your thumb on the bristles to ensure a soft and gentle feel.

However, you may want to speak to a dentist about this because the best kind of brush for you depends on your teeth’ condition. Let them take a look, and they can recommend the best option.

 

Habit #3: Grinding or Clenching Teeth

Grinding or clenching your teeth, a condition known as bruxism, often occurs unconsciously, particularly during sleep or times of stress. This affects about 30% of people to some degree. The problem is that this forceful grinding activity can wear down your enamel, lead to fractures, and cause tooth sensitivity, gum recession, or even tooth loss.

Here are some helpful suggestions on how to prevent bruxism:

  • Recognize stress triggers: Try to identify and manage stressors, considering relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises.
  • Wear a mouth guard: Consult with your dentist about having a custom night guard made, which can protect your teeth while you sleep.
  • Maintain healthy sleep habits: Quality sleep can lessen bruxism, so aim for a consistent, regular sleep routine.
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol: These substances can trigger teeth grinding, so minimizing consumption is best.

 

Habit #4: Chewing Ice

Chewing ice may seem like an innocent habit, one that’s becoming increasingly common, but doing so can cause significant damage to your teeth. The cold temperature and hard texture can result in cracked or chipped enamel, potentially causing tooth sensitivity and gum injuries.

Instead of chewing on ice, consider some of these healthier and safer alternatives:

  • Sugar-free gum: Chewing sugar-free gum can satisfy your oral fixation while also promoting saliva production, which helps to protect your teeth.
  • Crunchy fruits and vegetables: Snack on carrot sticks, apple slices, or celery for that satisfying crunch without jeopardizing your dental health.
  • Chewable ice alternatives: Look into purchasing a reusable, nontoxic gel-based chewable product designed to replicate the sensation of crunching ice for those with an irresistible craving.
  • Avoid extreme temperatures: Instead of iced drinks, opt for room temperature or warm beverages that pose less risk to your teeth.

 

Habit #5: Consuming Sugary Foods and Drinks

This habit is perhaps the most common and heard-about habit here, yet the average American is still eating over 17 teaspoons of the stuff a day, which is far above the recommended levels and destroys your teeth. Indulging in sugary foods and drinks can lead to serious tooth decay, as sugar feeds the bacteria in your mouth. These bacteria produce acid that weakens your tooth enamel, causing cavities and the risk of other dental issues.

To protect your teeth, consider these tips for reducing your sugar intake:

  • Opt for healthier snacks: Choose fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese, or nuts instead of sweets and cakes.
  • Choose water: Ditch sodas and sports drinks for water, which helps flush away food particles and neutralize harmful acids.
  • Read labels carefully: Many packaged foods contain added sugars. Make it a habit to read nutrition labels.
  • Limit juice and coffee intake: Even if they seem healthy, juices and sugary coffees can contribute to tooth decay.

 

Habit #6: Smoking or Using Tobacco Products

The use of tobacco products, including cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, can lead to severe oral health issues. This has been proven repeatedly, and if you’re looking for a sign to quit, this is it. Health issues are numerous and include the likes of gum disease, tooth discoloration, bad breath, and even oral cancer.

Here are some strategies to help quit smoking or using tobacco products:

  • Set a quit date: Choose a date in the near future to make your commitment concrete.
  • Seek professional help: Consider support groups, a therapist, or a smoking cessation program.
  • Try nicotine replacement therapy: Use nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges, or talk to your doctor about prescription medication.
  • Stay active: Physical activity can reduce cravings and improve your mood.

 

Habit #7: Biting Your Nails

Believe it or not, nail biting is not only detrimental to your nails, but it’s also harmful to your teeth. Regular nail biting can lead to cracked, chipped, or worn-down teeth, and the germs under your nails can cause infections in your mouth.

To help you quit this habit, consider these suggestions:

  • Keep nails short: There’s less to bite if nails are kept nicely trimmed.
  • Identify triggers: Pay attention to what provokes the habit – boredom, stress, etc. Address these triggers proactively.
  • Use a deterrent: Use a bitter-tasting nail polish or a mouthguard for more severe cases.
  • Alternate habits: Try a stress ball or fidget spinner to keep your hands busy.

 

Habit #8: Drinking Acidic Beverages

Frequent consumption of acidic beverages, like citrus juices or soda, can erode tooth enamel, leading to cavities, tooth sensitivity, and discoloration.

Here are some ways to reduce the consumption of acidic drinks:

  • Drink plenty of water: Choose water more often, especially fluoridated tap water.
  • Use a straw: If you do consume acidic drinks, use a straw to minimize contact with your teeth.
  • Rinse immediately: Rinse your mouth with water after consuming these drinks to neutralize the acid.
  • Regular dental check-ups: Ensure you’re maintaining your oral health by visiting your dentist regularly.

By reducing your intake of acidic beverages, you are helping to protect your teeth and maintain your dental health.

 

Habit #9: Skipping Dental Check-ups

Neglecting regular dental check-ups not only prevents detection of potential dental problems in their early stages but also compromises your oral health over time. Dental check-ups also include thorough cleanings that remove hardened plaque.

Here are tips to ensure regular dental visits:

  • Maintain a schedule: Schedule your next check-up immediately after each visit, generally every six months.
  • Put it in the calendar: Immediately put the date in your calendar and set reminders.
  • Prioritize it: Dental check-ups should be a non-negotiable part of your healthcare routine, just like diet and exercise.
  • Choose wisely: Find a dentist you trust and are comfortable with to make the visits more enjoyable.

 

Conclusion

Taking care of your dental health is crucial to prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health problems. Make a commitment to break these habits and implement the suggested alternatives. However, while working on these habits will certainly help you look after your teeth, no advice comes close to getting a dentist to look you over and provide personalized advice for you and you alone. Book an appointment now at National Dental Care, and do what you can to ensure a lifetime of healthy, beautiful smiles.