Avoiding Bad Habits That Can Damage Your Teeth

For years, Smith & Heymann Orthodontics has been creating beautiful smiles for patients of all ages throughout our community. Our three experienced doctors have treated hundreds of children, teens, and adults with braces and clear aligners! Our team provides a lot of helpful advice on keeping smiles in shape, but one of the most important pieces of wisdom we have to offer is simple: get a good dental hygiene routine going and stick to it! That includes brushing regularly, flossing effectively, and avoiding bad habits that can damage your teeth. 

When you don’t care for your teeth and gums properly during orthodontic treatment, it can stall your progress towards a straighter smile, increase treatment times, and may even affect the final results. If you’re wearing braces, you are particularly susceptible to cavities during treatment, so a solid brushing and flossing routine is essential. But this advice doesn’t just apply to our braces patients! It’s a good idea for everyone to examine their oral hygiene from time to time. You may take care of your oral health and see a dentist regularly, but what about bad habits that can affect your smile? 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the worst oral habits and how breaking them can give your smile a boost, whether you wear braces or not! Keep reading below to learn more. 

Inconsistent oral hygiene

Your dental hygiene routine should include more than a quick brush a couple of times each day! The state of your toothbrush is a perfect example. Many people are under the impression that firmer bristles are better at cleaning the teeth, but this isn’t the case. Firm-bristled toothbrushes can actually irritate the gums and may lead to sensitive teeth, especially for older adults. Our gums tend to recede with age, exposing the roots of the teeth and increasing sensitivity. For extra comfort and better results, stick with a soft-bristled toothbrush instead, using gentle strokes to clean the teeth and gums.

As far as brushing itself goes, we recommend that you brush with fluoridated toothpaste at least twice a day for two minutes each time. You should also aim to floss every night before you go to bed. This helps to remove any stubborn food debris and plaque, which will reduce your chances of developing tooth decay. Be sure to replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months as well, or sooner if you have a cold or any other illness. Antimicrobial and fluoride mouthwashes can also improve your oral health by eliminating the types of bacteria that cause bad breath and gum disease.

Crunching ice and chewing on other objects

Crunching on the ice in your drink may seem like a harmless habit, and it’s certainly a common one. But the freezing temps and hard texture of the ice are enough to fracture your teeth! Chewing on ice can also cause microscopic cracks in the surface of the enamel, which can lead to several other dental issues given enough time. Ice isn’t the bad guy here, though. Popcorn kernels and fruit pits can also put extra stress on the teeth and occasionally lead to fractures, so just be aware of what you’re biting down on. 

Many people deal with boredom or the need for distraction by chewing on items like pencils, pen caps, or fingernails. This is often a subconscious habit so you may not even be aware that you’re doing it. Over time, however, this behavior can chip away at your tooth enamel and irritate the soft tissue inside the teeth. If this is a problem for you, try giving your mouth something else to do, like chewing sugarless gum or snacking on something with a satisfying crunch, like carrots, celery, or apple slices. As a bonus, these are also excellent for your teeth, oral health, and your whole body, too! 


Grinding your teeth

Tooth grinding, also known as bruxism, is the involuntary grinding of the teeth outside of normal chewing, swallowing, or speaking movements. There are several causes for this, which can include:

  • stress and anxiety
  • medications
  • certain medical conditions
  • genetics
  • misalignment between the teeth and jaws
  • an abnormal bite
  • missing or crooked teeth

Bruxism can cause quite a few problems, including everything from interrupted sleep to chronic headaches and many issues in between. It can also wear down the enamel of your teeth if left untreated, eventually exposing the much softer dentin inside. This may result in tooth sensitivity, with symptoms ranging from mild to intense.

There are several options for dealing with tooth grinding. Many of these solutions will help prevent any further damage and also treat any damage that’s already present. This generally involves treating obvious underlying causes, like reducing stress, treating anxiety, and addressing any dental or orthodontic issues. Proactive treatment may be recommended as well, such as wearing a mouthguard overnight.

Sometimes it helps to simply be aware that you’re grinding your teeth! If you feel yourself clenching or grinding your teeth, you can try positioning the tip of your tongue between your teeth to train the jaw muscles to relax. Holding a warm washcloth against your cheek can often produce the same effect and is a calming way to end your day.   

Using your teeth as a tool

As orthodontic specialists, you’d be surprised at what we’ve seen teeth used for over the years! Tearing open bags, ripping tags off clothing, uncapping bottles—just about anything you could think of, we’ve probably witnessed or at least heard about. Many people do this without even thinking about it, but using your teeth as tools can be really rough on them! It only takes one wrong move for a tooth to be traumatized, chipped, or even fractured.

With that in mind, try to stop and be mindful when you’re about to use your teeth for something that could be harmful. Keep simple tools like scissors, nail clippers, and pliers in convenient places around the house so you aren’t tempted to do the dirty work with your mouth! Remember, reducing the amount of unnecessary stress on your teeth will help keep them strong for years to come.


Beat bad habits and improve oral health with Smith & Heymann Orthodontics

As experienced orthodontists, Dr. Smith, Dr. Heymann, and Dr. Skillestad are trained to diagnose and correct a multitude of orthodontic issues. Identifying any harmful oral habits is an important part of that process, too! That being said, you don’t have to be an orthodontic patient to benefit from breaking a bad habit if it’s hurting your smile. 

If you’re in Durham, Chapel Hill, Mebane, or Roxboro and need some help breaking free from a destructive oral habit, our expert team is here to help! Get in touch today to schedule a FREE consultation with our doctors and take the first step towards stronger teeth, a healthier smile, and lasting oral health.