Breaking Bad Habits That Harm Your Teeth

  • May 11, 2016

You brush your teeth twice per day. You floss daily, and you visit the dentist at least twice a year for cleanings and examinations.

Your teeth have to be in great shape, right?

Not necessarily, you can harm your teeth with bad habits even if you follow the ADA recommended preventive care.

We do our best to care for our patients and their teeth when they visit Beaumont Family Dentistry in Lexington. But you also need to be as mindful to avoid harming your teeth as are you about caring for them.

Below, we have listed some common bad habits that affect patients from Winchester, Richmond, and everywhere in between.

➤ Tobacco Use

We’ve mentioned the problems caused by tobacco use before, but it remains a bigger problem in Kentucky than in many other states. According to the most recent data from America’s Health Rankings, roughly 1 in 4 Kentuckians is a self-described smoker.

Smokeless tobacco use is a big concern as well. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids noted that 22.3 percent of male high school students reported using smokeless tobacco. This is nearly 8 percent higher than the national average.

Tobacco products increase your risk of gum disease and your risk of tooth decay. To add insult to injury, treating these conditions is more difficult when a patient is a smoker or smokeless tobacco user.

And we aren’t forgetting the biggest problem of them all. Tobacco use increases your risk of developing oral cancer.

➤ Nail biting

We’ve witnessed plenty of nail-biting finishes, especially in basketball games in March, but actual nail biting can be harmful to your teeth.

Habitually biting your nails wears down the enamel on your teeth. This enamel helps to protect your teeth from the bacteria that cause tooth decay. Nail biting can also contribute to jaw problems, which can lead to TMJ disorders.

And when you bite off a piece of a nail, that piece can poke into your gums and other soft tissues in your mouth. This can spread infections into your mouth.

➤ Brushing too hard

As dental professionals, we encourage our patients to brush twice a day for two minutes each time. We also encourage you to use a soft-bristled toothbrush with a fluoride toothpaste.

However, it is possible to overdo it, and indeed, millions of Americans are guilty of overbrushing.

This too can wear down the enamel on your teeth, and using a medium- or hard-bristled toothbrush can make the problem worse. Overbrushing can damage your gums, making them more vulnerable to gum disease.

The key thing to remember when brushing is to scrub your teeth on all sides. Toothpaste already has abrasive qualities. The more places you touch, the more bacteria you will remove.

When you brush, you should be able to feel the pressure on your gums. If your bristles are bending because of that pressure, you may be brushing too hard.

➤ Chewing ice

We know how tempting this can be, particularly on a hot summer day.

Ice is a crystallized form of water. The enamel on your teeth is also a crystalline substance. When your crunch crystals together, one of them breaks, and too often, it’s your enamel that is worse for the wear.

If you have a filling, chewing ice can cause your filling to come loose.

If you are hot, drinking a cool beverage can help, just be aware of the damage you could be doing if you decide to eat the ice.

One other thing to keep in mind, habitual ice chewing may be a symptom of an iron deficiency. If you do this often, you may want to discuss it with your doctor.

➤ Grinding your teeth

This is another habit we have mentioned before as it relates to TMJ. Grinding or clenching your teeth can hurt your jaw, but it’s bad for your teeth, too.

Many people do this in their sleep or as a response to stressful situations. When you clench or grind your teeth together, it is yet another way that you can wear down your teeth, making them weaker and more vulnerable to decay.

In addition, grinding can affect dental crown, fillings, and other dental restorations. If you worry that you may be a habitual teeth grinder, make plans to talk to one of our dentists about how a mouthguard could help.

Breaking Bad Habits

Some bad habits are harder to break than others. No matter what your habit is, you can find resources online that can help.

We may be able to offer treatments for some problems, but no matter what, we will support you in doing what’s best for your teeth.

To schedule a visit for a cleaning or to discuss your habits, call the Beaumont Family Dentistry office closest to you or click on the name to fill out an online appointment form.

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