Identifying and breaking harmful oral habits

Over the years, the Oread Orthodontics team has successfully treated many patients throughout Lawrence, and Topeka. We’re always blown away at the hard work and dedication that patients like you put into achieving and maintaining a beautiful smile! Our team is always happy to offer advice on how to improve oral health, but of all the tips and tricks we have, one important piece of wisdom couldn’t be simpler: find a good dental hygiene routine and stick to it. That includes identifying and breaking oral habits that could be harmful!

Your oral hygiene routine should include more than a quick brush and floss each day. You should be brushing at least twice a day, flossing every night before bed, and avoiding bad oral habits that could damage your teeth. This is something everyone should aspire to, whether or not you’re in orthodontic treatment! It’s a good idea for all of us to examine our oral hygiene from time to time. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the worst habits we see in our practice and discuss how breaking them can improve your oral health.

Misunderstanding the basics of brushing

Brushing and flossing properly is just the first step towards a healthy smile! Your toothbrush is a great example—you may believe that firm bristles clean the teeth more effectively, but they can irritate the gums and may lead to sensitive teeth. This is especially true for older adults because our gums begin to recede as we age, exposing more of the roots of the teeth and increasing sensitivity. A soft-bristled toothbrush is a much better option, as it will be more comfortable and give you better results. 

Regardless of the type of toothbrush you use, you should always be gentle when cleaning your teeth and gums. We recommend brushing with fluoridated toothpaste at least twice a day for two minutes each time. Flossing every night before you go to bed will help remove stubborn food debris and plaque, reducing your chances of developing tooth decay. You should also be sure to replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months, or sooner if you’ve been sick. Adding an antimicrobial or fluoride mouthwash to your routine is another way to help eliminate bacteria that can cause bad breath and gum disease.

Crunching ice and chewing on objects

Lots of us crunch on the leftover ice in our cups or chew our nails when we’re feeling bored or anxious. These common habits may seem harmless, but they can be incredibly harmful to our smiles! The freezing temps and tough texture of ice can cause microscopic cracks in the surface of the enamel, which can lead to several other dental issues given enough time. In some cases, it can even fracture the teeth! Similar problems can come from biting down on hard items like popcorn kernels and fruit pits, so do your best to avoid putting any extra stress on your teeth like that.  

Chewing on your nails or other objects (like pen caps or the ends of pencils) can chip away at your tooth enamel and irritate the soft tissue inside the teeth. If this is a tough habit for you to break, try giving your mouth something healthier to do! Sugarless gum is a great choice, or snack on something that gives you a satisfying crunch, such as celery or apple slices. These foods are good for your teeth and whole-body health, too!

Grinding your teeth

Tooth grinding, also known as bruxism, is defined as any involuntary grinding of the teeth outside of normal chewing, swallowing, or speaking movements. There are several possible 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

Even if you’re not aware of doing it, bruxism can cause some major problems. Your sleep may be interrupted or you might experience chronic headaches and jaw pain. Teeth grinding can also wear down the enamel of your teeth if it’s not treated, eventually exposing the much softer dentin inside. This could result in mild to intense tooth sensitivity, along with other symptoms.  

There are several ways to address tooth grinding. Many solutions will treat damage already present while preventing any further damage. This generally involves treating obvious underlying causes, like stress and anxiety as well as any 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 in the first place. 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. 

Using your teeth as if they were a tool

We’ve heard about patients using their teeth for some pretty surprising things over the years! Opening bags of chips, ripping tags off clothing, even uncapping bottles—anything you can think of, we’ve probably seen or heard about here at Oread Orthodontics. It’s easy to do things like this without thinking about it, but using your teeth as tools can be rough on them. It only takes one wrong move for a tooth to be traumatized, chipped, or even fractured!

Try to be more aware 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 attempt it with your mouth! Reducing the amount of unnecessary stress on your teeth will help keep them strong and healthy for many years to come. 

Beat bad oral habits and improve your smile with Oread Orthodontics

Dr. Brent Wood has extensive training to help him diagnose and correct a variety of orthodontic issues. Identifying harmful oral habits is an important part of that process! You don’t have to be an orthodontic patient to benefit from breaking a bad oral habit, however. 

If you’re in Topeka, Lawrence, or the surrounding areas and need some help breaking free from a bad habit that’s damaging your smile, our expert team is here to help! Get in touch today to schedule a FREE consultation with one of our doctors and take the first step towards stronger teeth and a healthier smile.