10 Bad Oral Habits You Need to Break

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It’s easy to make a habit of something, even when we know the habit may not be a positive one. This even applies to habits that affect our oral health. But, with a conscious effort we can get rid of negative habits so that we can be the best and healthiest versions of ourselves. Take a look at these 10 damaging oral habits that need to be broken in order to keep your smile healthy:

1. Nail Biting

Do you reach for your nails when you feel anxious? Nail biting is a damaging oral habit that individuals often do when they feel nervous or stressed out. Unfortunately, this habit can result in chipped teeth, jaw pain, and even impact the alignment of your teeth. To ditch this bad habit, bitter-tasting nail polishes, stress reduction, and setting goals to quit may help.

2. Brushing Too Hard

You may wonder, does your brushing technique matter? Interestingly, how you brush your teeth makes a difference. Brushing your teeth too hard can negatively impact your oral health by damaging your teeth and gums. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends avoiding using a hard-bristled toothbrush or pressing too hard to avoid issues like gum recession, tooth sensitivity, and wearing down your teeth.

3. Teeth Grinding (Bruxism) and Clenching

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, and clenching can cause many issues, such as chipped teeth, jaw pain, and even tooth loss. Some individuals may not even notice that they are grinding their teeth, especially if it is happening during your sleep. If you notice or believe you are grinding or clenching, inform your dental professional who will help determine the cause and appropriate treatment. Muscle relaxation exercises, a nighttime mouth guard, or referral to a jaw specialist may be recommended.

4. Chewing Ice Cubes

Ever have an ice-cold drink and been tempted to chew the ice? If so, avoid the temptation at all costs. Chewing on ice can lead to a broken tooth, filling, or other existing dental restoration. The ADA recommends consuming beverages using a straw or taking your drinks without ice to help avoid this habit.

5. Frequent Snacking

Frequent snacking can be a poor habit for your oral health, especially if consuming sugary foods and drinks. This increases your risk for cavities. Eating well-balanced nutritious meals can help you feel more full and less likely to snack.

6. Using Your Teeth as Tools

Using your teeth for tasks like opening beverages or packages, or chewing pencils/pens, for instance can increase your risk of chipping your teeth and negatively impacting your jaws. Instead, grab a pair of scissors or wait until you have the necessary tools to accomplish your task.

7. Smoking or Chewing Tobacco

Using tobacco products are not only bad for your overall health, but also for your dental health. Tobacco can stain your teeth, cause gum disease, tooth decay, and even lead to tooth loss. It can also increase your risk for developing oral cancer. Speak with your doctor or dental professional for help quitting.

8. Forgetting to Wear a Mouthguard During Sports

Mouthguards are key to protecting your mouth when playing contact sports. Traumatic injuries that occur during sports activities can result in chipped teeth or tooth loss, which can be avoided with the use of a dental mouthguard. Your dentist can recommend different types of sports mouthguards that will help keep your teeth safe and protected.

9. Sucking Your Thumb or Fingers

According to the ADA, most children stop sucking their fingers or thumb between the ages of 2 and 4 years old. If finger or thumb sucking continues beyond this age, this bad oral habit can lead to misaligned teeth, and cause changes in the roof of the mouth. Nail polish, bandaging the thumb, or placing a sock on the hand at night may help break the habit.

10. Using Toothpicks

Using wooden toothpicks to clear out food in between your teeth can actually damage your teeth and gums. A better alternative is to use dental floss or an ADA-approved dental cleaning tool.

Written By: Heather Smith