If you are guilty of any of the following habits, you’re not alone. Many people place their smiles in harm’s way on a daily basis — and they often don’t even realize they’re endangering their dental health. Protect your smile by learning about these six habits that damage teeth, and how you can break them!
#1: Nail Biting
It’s a common reaction to stress or anxiety — biting your nails. Unfortunately, the habit puts your dental and overall health at great risk. Aside from introducing a host of bacteria into the mouth, nail biting places undue pressure on the front teeth. Over time, that stress can wear down the tooth enamel, causing chips, breaks, or flattened teeth. This habit is especially risky for people with crowns or veneers because the outer layer porcelain can break off very easily.
Tip: Take note of when you’re likely to bite your nails, and try other stress- or boredom- management techniques instead — like clenching a stress ball, or popping a rubber band or bubble wrap .
#2: Chewing on Pens, Pencils, Etc.
You’re lost in thought at a meeting or staring at a notepad — is your pen in your mouth? If so, you’re putting your teeth in harm’s way. Much like with nail biting, chewing on foreign objects can weaken the tooth enamel and lead to chips, cracks, and breaks. These habits may also increase your risk for developing bruxism, or unintentional teeth grinding.
Tip: Notice when you begin to chew on your pen or pencil. Sometimes becoming conscious of a habit is all that’s needed to break it.
#3: Using Your Teeth to Open Things
It’s easy to do. You’re trying to remove a nylon string sales tag or open a package and you don’t want to spend time looking for scissors, so you go to the next best option — your teeth. Or you use your teeth to remove packing tape, take off bottle caps, or hold items in your mouth while you do something with your hands. These actions often lead to tooth fractures that can necessitate esthetic bonding, a crown, a veneer or worse, extraction of the fractured tooth. In addition, for braces wearers, you could knock a bracket or wire out of place. A stray wire could cut the inside of your mouth. And of course cost you a couple of extra visits to the orthodontist.
Tip: Prevent the discomfort and stress of a broken tooth by remembering this golden rule: tools, not teeth. Always take the time to find the scissors, bottle opener, letter opener. Store your tools where you use them most often. Have a designated spot for each item so they are easy to find.
#4: Chewing Ice
You’re at the bottom of your favorite drink, and you start munching on the leftover ice. Maybe it seems harmless, but biting down on cold, hard ice puts your teeth at-risk for fractures, cracking and chipping, and can also cause sharp pains of sensitivity. Plus, you jeopardize any cosmetic dental work you’ve had done like porcelain veneers, crowns and tooth-colored fillings. That risk alone bodes pain—in both your mouth and your wallet. The fact is when you chew on ice, the enamel on your teeth wears down and the dentin becomes exposed putting your teeth at risk on many levels. Remember ice is not a snack food or way to calm your nerves.
Tip: When you’re tempted to bite down on ice, pop in a piece of sugar-free gum instead. The xylitol in sugar-free gum actually strengthens tooth enamel for extra protection against cavities.
#5: Playing Sports Without a Mouth Guard
The impact and force from contact sports puts your smile at great risk for broken, knocked out, or chipped teeth. Athletes who wear braces are especially vulnerable to lip, tongue, or cheek injuries on the field or court. Shield your smile with a custom-fit mouth guard, which protects the tooth enamel and cushions the lips, gums, cheeks, and tongue against injury. Mouth guards also help prevent brain injuries like concussions.
Tip: The Drs. Boyd provide custom-fit mouth guards for athletes of all ages.
#6: Drinking Lemon Water
What?! It’s true. Drinking lemon water is all the rage right now. Experts believe that lemon water can help reduce the amount of uric acid in joints, which is one of the underlying causes of certain types of joint pain. But a major drawback of sipping lemon water on a daily basis is that the habit exposes your teeth to unnecessary acid, slowly weakening your tooth enamel over time. While lemon water may be a crucial part of your favorite detox, it may not be worth the overall effect it has on your teeth. If you believe you already are experiencing tooth erosion, schedule a consult appointment with the Drs. Boyd.
Tip: Drink lemon water with a straw to make sure it bypasses your teeth and drink it all at once rather than sipping it throughout the day. Check out our Cast a Vote for Water blog post!
Questions about how you can protect your teeth? Contact us to schedule an appointment with the Drs. Boyd today!