10 Everyday Habits That Hurt Your Teeth

Your teeth were built to last a lifetime. That is, unless you treat them poorly. Are you guilty of any of these offenses?

  1. Crunching ice. They may be called chompers, but teeth aren't made to crush solid objects like ice. The American Dental Association advises against biting and chewing hard objects such as ice and hard candy.
  2. Using mouthwash instead of floss. According to Heather Weber, DDS at Alameda Dental in Portland, OR, "Patients often tell me they don't floss because they use mouth rinse that kills gingivitis. They're disappointed to find out that even though they've been religious with mouth rinse, they still have poor breath and gingivitis. If the bacteria are only on top of the gums, mouthwash might work. But gingivitis is below the gums and bacteria live between teeth. Removing this bacteria requires mechanical disruption like flossing."
  3. Drinking soda. Soft drinks are loaded with sugar and acids that can coat the teeth and erode the enamel.  
  4. Drinking sports drinks. According to Weber, "Like soda, sports drinks are both acidic and sugary. People drink them after exercise when their mouths are more dry. Unfortunately, the bacteria that are present use the sugar as food and create cavities. Plus the acid doesn't get buffered by saliva, which results in decalcifications along the gum line.
  5. Biting your pen. It takes more sustained pressure than you think to hold a pen, pencil, your glasses, or other solid object in your teeth for a sustained period of time. This can result in pressure marks, cracks, and breaks in your teeth. 
  6. Using your teeth as tools. They're not can openers, scissors, pliers, or knives, so don't treat your teeth like tools. Even something as simple as biting a thread can result in micro-cracks that may eventually lead to bigger problems.
  7. Using the wrong equipment. It's tempting to grab a paperclip, toothpick, or piece of paper to pry something out from your teeth, but this can quickly lead to gum and tooth damage.  
  8. Biting your nails. This nervous habit may cause splinters or cracks in your teeth, but it's even more likely to introduce nasty germs into your mouth that can infect your gums and teeth.
  9. Grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw. Most of us are unaware of how much pressure we put on our jaw when we clench during stressful situations or while sleeping. Learning to relax is your best bet, and using a night guard can protect your teeth if you grind them during slumber. Talk to your doctor about getting fitted for one.
  10. Skipping regular dental care. Even if you brush, floss, and avoid bad habits, skipping regular cleanings and avoiding necessary dental repairs can lead to big time problems down the road. 

What can you do to break your bad behaviors?  It starts with recognizing that you have them. If they're nervous habits like biting your nails or glasses, practice mindfulness or substitute another healthier habit. If it's a dietary issue like soda, switch to water or another non-sugary, non-acidic drink.



American Dental Association

Heather Weber, DDS
Alameda Dental
Portland, OR