16 Bad Habits That Are Guaranteed to Damage Your Teeth

This guide to the most destructive dental habits will show you how much damage smoking, drinking red wine, and guzzling sugary sodas does to your teeth.

16 Bad Habits that Damage your Teeth

Image from Tobias Toft on Flickr.

It is impossible to avoid regular wear and tear of the teeth. It cannot be done. There is nobody on the planet who can claim to have completely natural and entirely unmarked and unstained teeth. The very act of opening our mouths and talking causes tiny amounts of wear each time that we speak. You can only imagine how much pressure biting and chewing puts on teeth.

Yet, that is what they are designed to withstand. With regular brushing and flossing and a healthy diet, natural adult teeth can endure this wear and tear and still live as long as you do. But they need help. All day long, we talk, swallow, chew, bite, grind, and gnash our teeth. We wrest them from the icy temperatures of cold sodas to the searing heat of coffee and home cooked meals – and back again.

There are a hundred different things that we do every day which put pressure on our teeth. While some of these things are unavoidable, many can be prevented. For instance, using the teeth to open bottles, jars, and packing is a common habit. We are all guilty of it, because it’s more convenient than getting up and finding the scissors or asking for help. However, this is a good example of a habit that is damaging to teeth, but that can be easily avoided.

If you want to maintain a healthy smile and guarantee that wobbles, cracks, and fractures won’t upset your day, there are some things that you need to steer clear of. This might be tricky at first, because breaking any kind of habit is tough. If it were simple, it wouldn’t be a ‘habit.’ The trick is to identify the damaging behaviour and then, when you see it happening, immediately switch to something different.

Substituting the Habit for a Healthier Action

This can be a helpful trick for things like tooth grinding, because it consciously moves the mind away from the bad habit. If you do it for long enough, the switch will become instant. As soon as you even think about grinding your teeth, you’ll absentmindedly switch to the less harmful action. Eventually, you will simply stop performing the habit altogether.

For example, if you grind your teeth when you’re nervous or bored, switch to tapping your fingers. As a substitute action, it is non-destructive and unlikely to cause irritation to anybody around you. Remember, the key is to choose a substitute action that cannot also become a bad habit if you do it too often. So, you would never substitute tooth grinding for biting your nails, because it clearly wouldn’t be helpful.

The good news is that many of the most common dental habits are pretty easy to eliminate. They do not all involve persistent action or impulse. You might play a lot of sports. But, do you always wear a mouth guard? Well, you should, because thousands of teeth get knocked out every month during contact games. Even what feels like a minor hit to the mouth can end up leading to tooth loss, so don’t take the risk.

The single worst dental habit of all, by quite some margin, will come as no surprise. It is letting attendance at dental appointments and check-ups lapse. There is no faster way to put your teeth and gums in danger than to neglect the need for regular exams and consultations. It is the best way to spot signs of danger early and the quickest way to receive treatment, if necessary. Your Carefree dentists are a valuable resource; use them wisely.

Bad Dental Habits to Avoid at All Costs

This guide to some of the most common (and most destructive) dental habits will help you learn what to steer clear of and how to keep your teeth healthy and strong.

  1. Nibbling On Ice Cubes

It is not unusual for dieters to chew on ice cubes as a way to stave off hunger pangs. They are calorie and sugar free, after all. The problem is that they are too hard for your teeth to handle, especially if you are doing this quite regularly. It is also not healthy for your mouth to be constantly plunged into icy temperatures, so put the ice cubes down and pick up some raw vegetables or sugarless gum instead.

Things like carrots and celery sticks are a great choice. You can also snack on fruit, but remember to do this in moderation. It contains lots of sugar, so wait half an hour after eating fruit and then brush your teeth. That way, you get to benefit from the vitamins and other goods stuff and you get to care for your teeth too.

  1. Playing Sports with No Mouth Guard

It does not matter what kind of sport you play, if it involves contact with other people, you need a mouth guard. You might be a big hockey, football, or lacrosse fan; whatever your poison, pop a flexible mouth guard over your teeth before you head out.

These little rubber and plastic devices are cheap to buy and comfortable to wear. There really is no excuse, so if you do not wear one and you take a blow to the mouth, you only have yourself to blame. It might sound harsh, but once a tooth is lost, it could be lost forever; don’t take the chance.

  1. Giving Babies Bottles in Bed

A lot of parents leave their toddlers with a bottle in hand overnight. It keeps them calm, soothes their anxiety about being left alone, and helps them sleep. It also plays havoc with the teeth. During this very impressionable age, you need to avoid falling into bad habits that leave your child craving sugar at night.

It is always best to leave bottles out of the crib unless they contain just water. Otherwise, the child will keep sipping at the juice, milk, or formula and bathe their teeth in sugar. This sugar will then turn into plaque and spend the night attaching itself to enamel.

  1. Getting Your Tongue Pierced

Yes, tongue and lip piercings can look pretty cool. For many teenagers, they are an important part of finding a style and a personal look. However, dentists cannot stand them. Every year, they see scores of teeth that have been pushed out of alignment by lip rings. They treat thousands of cases of gum disease that have been exacerbated by tongue piercings.   

They might cool, but it is worth considering whether or not they are a good idea in the long run. They increase the risk of sores and lesions too, so they might not always look as impressive as you hope. If you are going to go ahead with the piercing, just make sure that you are aware of the risks first.

  1. Persistent Tooth Grinding

This is a really common habit and one of the hardest to beat, because it often occurs as a subconscious tic or impulse. For some people, it only happens during sleep, so it can be really tricky to conquer. Tooth grinding (or bruxism) wears down the enamel on teeth. It weakens them and makes them more prone to cracks and fractures.

If you are a night grinder, ask your dentist for a corrective mouth guard. This is worn while sleeping and is a flexible piece of plastic. It is designed to keep the mouth slightly open and the tongue lifted, so that the teeth cannot meet each other.

  1. Sucking on Cough Drops and Throat Candies

Do not make the mistake of thinking that these sugar filled candies are healthy, just because they are sold in pharmacies and drugstores. Sometimes, they are a necessary evil – after all, they do soothe a sore throat very effectively. If you are going to eat them, however, wait a while and then brush your teeth afterwards.

The sugar in these drops and candies reacts with the plaque in your mouth. The plaque then produces acid and this eats away at the enamel. Before you know it, you have cavities starting to appear. Be sensible and practical about what you are putting in your mouth.

  1. Constantly Supping on Soda

We all knew that this one was coming. Fans of soda may mourn, but the truth is that carbonated drinks are full of sugar and are horrible for teeth. The average can of soda has around eleven teaspoons of sugar hidden away in its sickly sweet insides, so think twice before you expose your teeth to one.

And, unfortunately, diet versions are not much better. They often contain chemical sweeteners, instead of natural ones, and these are not healthy for your teeth either. If you cannot bear to give up your favourite drink, restrict it to mealtimes and brush around thirty minutes after eating.

  1. Opening Lids and Packets with the Mouth

It is so easy to end up with a chipped or cracked tooth if you do this all the time. It may be the easiest option, but it will feel like a big mistake if it leads to a big dental problem. Your teeth should only be used for chewing and biting food – you know this, so resist the temptation to put unnecessary pressure on them.

It usually takes just a couple more minutes to ask for help unscrewing a bottle top or to fetch a pair of scissors for a packet. It is always worth taking your time. Those few minutes can mean the difference between an open bottle and an open bottle AND a cracked tooth.

  1. Drinking Lots of Sports Beverages

If you play sport or get involved with lots of physical activity, you might need to turn to high powered energy drinks for a little boost. The problem is that they are usually filled with sugar. So, as with regular soda, if you are going to drink them, brush your teeth afterwards.

The better option, by far, is to just switch to water. You will stay much more hydrated and, while the sugar rush won’t be there to provide that temporary shot of energy, you won’t crash and feel sluggish afterwards either. This is how most energy drinks work, so you end up feeling more tired after consuming them.

  1. Indulging a Love for Fruit Juice

A similar problem exists for fans of fruit juice. Yes, fruit is filled with good stuff (it contains lots of vitamins), but it is also packed with sugar. You need to restrict consumption to mealtimes and brush your teeth after eating if you want the best of both worlds.

When shopping, always pick juice that does not contain added sugar, because it has plenty already. You can also dilute the amount of sugar yourself by adding a small amount of water to your glass and drinking less in a serving.

  1. Snacking on Potato Chips

It is not just sugar that causes problems, because starchy foods are turned into acid too. Potato chips are an especially destructive culprit, because they get lodged in between teeth and little morsels stick in the gums. They then get turned into plaque and contribute to the weakening of tooth enamel.

You can reduce the potential for decay and cavities by flossing after eating starchy snacks. Anything that might get stuck in your teeth should be a target for cleaning. However, do be careful not to over brush your teeth. It is best to wait around half an hour eater eating, because brushing too soon will wash away the saliva and other good stuff in your mouth.

  1. Chewing on Pencil Tops

This is a really common habit among students and office workers. It is easy to find yourself absentmindedly chewing on a pencil or pen top during a dull moment at work. The bad news is that this can crack and chip enamel. It should be avoided, because the risk is not really worth what is, essentially, a subconscious tic.

If you do tend to fidget and need an outlet for nervous energy, chew on sugar free gum. It contains no calories and it will actually make your teeth stronger. Any action that generates saliva is generally very good for the health of teeth.

  1. Drinking Too Much Coffee

Too much coffee leads to staining and yellowing for the teeth. It can lead to unsightly patches and spots on the enamel. Fortunately for avid coffee fans, these stains are some of the most common and easiest to remove using whitening products and treatments.

For more information, ask your dentist about the various different whitening techniques on offer. While discoloration does not always indicate damage to teeth, it can harm self-confidence and ruin what is otherwise a great smile.

  1. Smoking Any Number of Cigarettes

Even a mild smoking habit can be ruinous for the health of teeth and gum tissues. The only real solution is to quit, so you might want to think about the fact that smoking significantly increases the risk of mouth cancer. Yes, it can be really difficult to give up, but your body will thank you for it in the long run.  

Smoking also leads to chronic lesions and sores on the inside of the mouth. In fact, smoking is a disaster for oral health and your dentist will make this clear. If you want white, strong, and healthy teeth, you need to kick the habit before any permanent damage is done.

  1. Unhealthy Eating and Snacking

If you find yourself bingeing on an unhealthy amount of sweets, soda, or other snacks, consider the damage that this could be doing to your teeth. According to dental scientists, constant grazing is one of the most common causes of decay. It is always much better to eat full meals than it is to nibble away almost all of the time.

Try to restrict the amount of snacks that you eat and brush your teeth after eating sugary foods. Eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia are devastating for dental health and sufferers must seek medical attention immediately. If you have had an eating disorder in the past, it is a good idea to tell your dentist, so that they can factor this into any care and treatment plans that they may have for you.

  1. Staining Teeth with Red Wine Tannins

The deep colour of red wine, when drunk regularly, begins to make its mark on enamel. This is why many wine enthusiasts have dark spots and patches on their teeth. These stains are quite unsightly, so you may want to consider their impact before picking up that bottle.

If you already have stains from red wine on your teeth, it may be possible to remove the marks using conventional whitening treatments. Your dentist will be able to tell you all about the best techniques and whether or not whitening is the right choice for you. You can carry out these treatments at home, but a professional service will always be more effective.

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