Breaking The Bad Habits That Can Harm Your Smile

Here at Cowan & Whitaker Orthodontics, we’re proud to create happy and healthy smiles for Tuscaloosa families. We love coming to work each day knowing our jobs are rewarding, challenging, and a lot of fun! While a big part of that is straightening teeth and correcting misalignments, our doctors also tend to give patients advice on everything from braces-friendly snacks to keeping clear aligners clean—and just about everything in between. We’ve collected quite a lot of dental wisdom over the years, but there’s one simple suggestion we encourage everyone to follow: find a good oral hygiene routine and stick to it! 

Even if you’re not an orthodontic patient, it’s important to pay attention to your oral health. One way to do this is to review your dental hygiene routine from time to time since recommendations occasionally change. Some basics will always be relevant, however: brushing often, flossing regularly, and avoiding bad habits that can harm your smile. When it comes to damaging habits, you could be engaging in some of them without even realizing it! Let’s take a look at some of the ones we see most often and how they can affect your oral health. 

Rushing through brushing and flossing your teeth

For the best results, you should pay attention to the way you brush and floss as well as how often you do it. To get the most out of your dental hygiene routine, we recommend following these basic guidelines.

  • Brush at least twice a day for two minutes each time.
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste.
  • Floss every night before bed to remove stubborn food particles and get rid of sticky plaque.
  • Add an antimicrobial or fluoride mouthwash to eliminate the bacteria that cause bad breath and gum disease.
  • Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months, or sooner if you’ve had a cold or any other illness.
Breaking The Bad Habits That Can Harm Your Smile

Grinding your teeth

The technical term for teeth grinding is bruxism, and it’s defined as any involuntary grinding of the teeth that occurs outside of normal chewing, swallowing, or speaking movements. This habit is relatively common and often involuntary. There are several possible causes for bruxism, including:

  • stress and anxiety
  • medications
  • certain medical conditions
  • genetics
  • misalignment between the teeth and jaws
  • an abnormal bite
  • missing or crooked teeth

Grinding your teeth can cause problems even if you aren’t aware you’re doing it.  It can interrupt your sleep, lead to chronic headaches, and cause pain in your jaw, face, or neck. It can also wear down the enamel of your teeth over time. When this exposes the soft dentin inside them, it may result in painful tooth sensitivity.  

Thankfully, there are several ways to get teeth grinding under control! The first step is identifying and treating any underlying causes like stress, anxiety, and misaligned bites. Other solutions will treat any existing damage while helping to prevent any further impact, and proactive treatment may be recommended as well, like wearing a mouthguard overnight.

Sometimes a simple awareness of this habit can help you beat it, particularly if it’s a stress response. The next time you feel yourself beginning to clench or grind your teeth, try positioning the tip of your tongue between your teeth. Over time, this will train the jaw muscles to relax. You can hold a warm washcloth against your cheek to produce a similar effect.

Chewing on ice and other objects

Do you love crunching on ice? Are you used to gnawing on your fingernails when you’re anxious or bored? You’re not alone! These are very common habits, and they may seem harmless because of that, but they can cause real damage to your teeth and gums. For example, the temperature and texture of ice can cause microscopic cracks in the surface of the enamel when you chew it, increasing your chances of developing other dental problems.

Biting your nails or chewing on other objects can also chip away at your tooth enamel. In some cases, it can irritate the soft tissue inside the teeth as well. If you struggle with this particular habit, it may help to give your teeth something else to do! Try popping a piece of sugarless gum in your mouth instead, or look for a healthy snack that comes with a satisfying crunch. Apples, carrots, and celery all fit the bill, and they’re good for your oral health, too! 

Using your teeth as tools

We’ve seen teeth used for a lot of things over the years—ripping open packages, tearing tags off items, even opening a bottle cap! Using your teeth as a tool may save you a few seconds, but it can actually damage them pretty easily. After all, it doesn’t take much to traumatize or chip a tooth. Keep temptation to a minimum by placing simple tools like scissors, nail clippers, and pliers in convenient places around your house. This will help reduce the amount of unnecessary stress on your teeth, keeping them strong and healthy for years to come.

Breaking The Bad Habits That Can Harm Your Smile

Achieve a healthier smile with help from Cowan & Whitaker Orthodontics

Dr. Cowan and Dr. Whitaker have years of combined experience successfully treating a range of orthodontic and dental issues. In fact, Dr. Cowan is board-certified, a qualification less than 30% of orthodontists achieve! Both of our doctors can help you identify and correct any bad habits that could be damaging your teeth and jaw. Are you ready to take the first step towards a stronger smile and improved oral health? Get in touch today to schedule a FREE consultation with our expert team!