A great way to start this year is to make small changes in your habits and routines to better your health, including oral health. The oral health of your mouth is crucial to the health of your entire body, which can improve by reducing many small bad habits. Some of these habits we'll talk about might be news to you, but we’re sure there will be some you'll recognize that you need to break or avoid ever getting.
Let’s start with the ones many already know – biting your nails is a great habit to break. It causes chipping and breakage to your teeth, as well as causes them to become misaligned due to the consistent stress you’re putting on the same teeth each time. When you bite your nails, your jaw protrudes forward, placing unnatural tension and pressure on it, leading to pain and dysfunction. Also, it introduces a lot of harmful bacteria into your mouth. Using your teeth as tools to open packages and other things can also lead to similar tooth injuries, so try to avoid chewing on non-food items entirely.
However, snacking too often on things with sugar and starches does increase your risk of cavities. Our Dentist recommends brushing your teeth 10 minutes after eating and washing your food down with a drink. This helps break up the food and prevent bacteria from forming and causing decay. So, continuously eating throughout the day isn’t the best habit to keep when concerning your dental health. Neither is drinking many sugary drinks like soda, as many of those popular beverages can have upwards of a dozen teaspoons of sugar per serving. Sugar-free or diet equivalents aren’t any better (they add harmful sweeteners instead of sugar), so it’s best to avoid them at all or only drink on occasion as a treat.
For our parents out there – bedtime bottles that aren't filled with water can cause tooth decay to develop in your child’s mouth due to their mouth soaking up the sugar from their drink during the night. This means milk, formula, and juice. If they have to have a bottle, try to get them used to only having water in it during naptime and bedtime. Or, just keep bottles out of their crib entirely. We usually brush our teeth before bed to rid our mouth of any sugars we consumed throughout the day, but allowing access to them during sleep hours just reintroduces those sugars 24/7 and allows decay to creep in.
On the topic of babies and children, thumb-sucking is also a great habit to break. The sooner, the better, as it can permanently alter their tooth and jaw structure. Pacifiers are okay in the first few years, but as your child grows into preschool age (beyond age 3) –They can cause their teeth to become misaligned with prolonged use.
Something else you probably already know is a bad habit is smoking or chewing tobacco. They cause staining, periodontal disease, gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss, and they can cause cancer. There are no benefits to starting this habit and if you already have, we highly recommend trying to break it. It’ll do wonders for your health, not just oral health but your overall body health.
A fun one that might be new to you – chewing ice cubes is bad for your teeth. The coldness and hardness of it can cause your teeth to fracture and damage your fillings and other dental work. It can also irritate the inside of your mouth and give you regular toothaches.
Brushing your teeth too hard can also cause some harsh damage to your teeth, it can wear down your enamel and make your teeth more prone to developing decay and cause heightened sensitivity. It can cause your gum line to recede when you brush them too hard. You don’t need to scrub them, but a gentle massage will work just fine.
This habit probably won’t be a surprise for you to read, but teeth grinding/clenching (also referred to as bruxism) is not a great habit to keep. It can put a lot of extra wear and tear on your teeth. It’s a habit normally caused by stress, anxiety, and sleeping habits (sleep bruxism). It’s a difficult habit to break since most people do it without even realizing it. Wearing a night guard can help prevent some of the damage that sleep bruxism can cause on your teeth.
On the topic of mouth guards, we cannot recommend enough that you should always wear a mouth guard when playing sports. It’s the best insurance you can get for your teeth as an athlete because your teeth become vulnerable to getting chipped or even knocked out if you fall the wrong way or get hit by a ball in the mouth.
Your smile is the first thing people notice about you, and everyone wants a nice smile. There’s a lot you can do to protect your smile to keep it healthy and beautiful, brushing and flossing aren’t the end-all-be-all to oral hygiene. Breaking bad habits like the ones we’ve discussed here can help you further establish and maintain good oral health. It’ll not only have a positive impact on your dental health but your overall health as well.