6 Bad Habits to Break that Affect Your Oral Health

Dental Health
By: Spirit Dental
December 6, 2023

Young man smiling at the dentist

Your lifestyle and habits play more of a role in preserving the strength and vitality of your teeth than you may realize. Yet, many of us unknowingly engage in practices that threaten our dental health. 

Fortunately, breaking these habits and prioritizing oral health involves a conscious effort and commitment to adopting preventive measures. Below we’ll discuss the most common and harmful oral health habits, as well as best practices for overcoming them to restore and protect your mouth and teeth.

Most common teeth habits

1. Using teeth as tools

Frequently using teeth for purposes other than their intended function — like using them as makeshift tools to open bottles or tear apart packages — poses a significant risk to oral health. This habit can result in various dental complications, including:

  • Chipped or cracked teeth
  • Strain on the jaw muscle
  • Discomfort and/or pain

Ultimately, these practices increase the likelihood of damaging dental work like fillings or crowns, leading to the need for costly repairs or replacements.

2. Brushing too hard

The enthusiasm for maintaining oral hygiene through regular brushing sometimes backfires when you exert excessive force. Brushing vigorously or with too much pressure can inadvertently wear down protective enamel, rendering them more susceptible to various dental issues. 

Aggressive brushing can also result in greater tooth sensitivity and contribute to gum recession, as the force applied may irritate and push back gums to expose sensitive tooth roots. Finally, persistent over-brushing can lead to enamel erosion, increasing the risk of cavities and other dental problems.

3. Constant snacking

Among other physical issues, regularly indulging in snacks throughout the day — particularly those with sugar or high acidity — poses a substantial threat to dental health. The continuous intake of sugars and acids without adequate cleaning allows these substances to linger on the teeth, promoting the growth of bacteria and plaque. Over time this plaque buildup erodes enamel, leading to decay, cavities and other dental concerns. 

4. Chewing ice

The seemingly harmless habit of chewing on ice cubes can wreak havoc on the teeth. Despite its refreshing nature, ice is remarkably hard and poses a considerable risk. The force exerted while crunching down on ice can subject teeth to undue stress, potentially resulting in tiny cracks or microfractures in the enamel covering. 

Over time, these small damages can escalate into more significant issues like dental emergencies or severe damage requiring professional intervention. These cracks don’t just compromise the structural integrity of the teeth, but also create pathways for bacteria to enter and spread.

5. Biting nails

The impact of nail-biting goes beyond the appearance of your fingertips — it causes both aesthetic and structural concerns for your teeth:

  • Chipping or misalignment 
  • Enamel erosion
  • Jaw discomfort, pain or difficulty in movement

6. Grinding teeth (bruxism)

Bruxism can inflict substantial damage on oral health. The motion applies considerable pressure that wears down enamel and eventually causes cracks, chips or fractures in the teeth. It can also manifest as jaw pain, headaches or earaches due to the strain placed on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and surrounding muscles. 

Some people grind their teeth in their sleep and don’t even know they do it. If you notice symptoms of bruxism, see your dentist as soon as possible.

How to Fix Bad Habits

Breaking these bad oral habits involves a conscious effort to prioritize dental health through mindful practices and preventive measures. First, refrain from using teeth as tools and be aware of the potential damage caused by such actions. Using a soft-bristled toothbrush and gently brushing helps prevent enamel erosion and gum damage caused by aggressive brushing.

Being mindful of dietary choices also plays a pivotal role in maintaining oral health. Limit your intake of sugary and acidic foods while being conscious of the frequency of snacking to prevent plaque formation and reduce the risk of tooth decay. Avoid hard foods as well, like ice cubes and hard candies, to protect teeth from potential fractures or damage. 

If you’re dealing with teeth grinding, an oral apparatus like a mouthguard prescribed by dentists can be effective in preventing further damage. Stress management techniques like meditation or relaxation exercises also aid in reducing or preventing teeth grinding episodes by addressing underlying triggers.

Finally, practicing proper oral hygiene with regular brushing and flossing is fundamental in avoiding oral issues. Make sure to see your dentist regularly to catch and treat any issues before they become severe. 

Professional Dental Care is #1 in Keeping Teeth Healthy

One of the worst habits you can practice is missing your bi-annual dental appointments. Skipping these routine visits can have significant repercussions on your oral health. Many factors contribute to people avoiding these crucial appointments, like:

  • Anxiety and fear
  • Pain during treatments
  • Associated costs

Investing in dental insurance provides the necessary financial support for routine dental care and unforeseen treatments. And while it won’t prevent potential pain during dental procedures, it provides an incentive for you to get the necessary care before conditions worsen and require even more painful and costly treatment. 

Spirit Dental offers affordable coverage options tailored to your needs, providing access to a network of dentists and comprehensive plans designed to accommodate different budgets. Finding suitable coverage ultimately fosters better oral health and minimizing the impact of cost-related barriers to regular dental visits. Remember, taking proactive steps toward better dental care contributes to maintaining a healthy smile and overall well-being.

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