Here at Foothill Orthodontics, we try to help our patients understand the importance of maintaining good dental hygiene and avoiding harmful habits that would inhibit the progress of orthodontic treatment. When patients who wear braces don’t dedicate time to caring for their teeth and gums, it can lengthen treatment times and even produce lower-quality results. Even if you’re careful to brush and floss twice daily, you may still have other bad habits that are compromising your oral health. That’s why we’re taking a look at some bad habits to break whether you have braces or not. Keep reading to learn some simple tips that you can incorporate into your daily routine to protect your smile!
Improper Dental Hygiene
Good dental hygiene is so much more than just having a brushing and flossing routine. The tools you use to care for your teeth are important too! Your toothbrush is a perfect example. Many people believe that a firm toothbrush will be more effective for brushing. On the contrary, firmer brushes can actually cause gum irritation and sensitive teeth, especially for adults. That’s because our gums recede as we age, exposing the roots of the teeth and increasing sensitivity. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles instead and brush gently to clean the teeth and gums.
You should be brushing with fluoridated toothpaste at least twice a day, for two minutes each time, and flossing every night before bed. This ensures that bacteria and food particles are completely removed from your mouth and between your teeth, which will reduce your risk of developing tooth decay. You should also replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months, or sooner if you have a cold or any other illness. Using antimicrobial and fluoride mouthwashes once a day can help to further improve your oral health by eliminating the bacteria that cause bad breath and gum disease.
The technical term for teeth grinding is “bruxism” and it refers to involuntarily grinding the teeth outside of normal chewing, swallowing, or speaking movements. This can occur during the day, at night, or both, although it’s often more noticeable during the nighttime hours. There are many possible causes for teeth grinding, including stress and anxiety, medication, certain medical conditions, and even genetics. It is also associated with misalignment between the teeth and jaws, abnormal bites, and missing or crooked teeth.
Teeth grinding can cause a variety of issues, from disrupted sleep to jaw pain and headaches. The most destructive issue, however, is the risk this poses to your enamel. Over time, grinding your teeth can wear down your tooth enamel and eventually expose your dentin, a much softer substance that’s beneath your enamel. Once that dentin is exposed, tooth sensitivity can quickly become a real problem. The sensations can range from mild to intense and may be long-lasting.
There are several solutions for bruxism that can retroactively treat any damage that’s already present and prevent any further damage. This typically involves addressing underlying causes like stress and anxiety, along with more proactive treatment, like wearing a mouthguard at night.
Sometimes it helps to simply notice that you’re grinding your teeth. If you feel yourself clenching or grinding your teeth, try positioning the tip of your tongue between your teeth to train the jaw muscles to relax. At night, you can hold a warm washcloth against your cheek to produce the same relaxing effect.
Chewing Ice (and Other Hard Objects)
Many people find themselves crunching on the leftover ice after finishing a drink. This may seem like a harmless habit, but the texture and temperature of ice cubes can actually fracture your teeth! Chewing ice can also cause microscopic cracks in the surface of the tooth enamel, which could lead to other dental problems down the road.
Ice cubes aren’t the only thing that you should avoid chewing. Popcorn kernels and pitted fruit also put undue stress on the teeth and can lead to fractures, as well. Chewing on items like pencils, pen caps, and fingernails are often subconscious habits, but they can also chip away at the enamel, crack the teeth, and irritate the soft tissue inside a tooth.
If you often find yourself chewing on things or biting your nails, try using sugarless gum to occupy your mouth instead! Healthy snacks with a satisfying crunch (like carrots, celery, or apple slices) can also be a good substitute. As an added bonus, these foods are also great for your teeth and oral health!
Using Your Teeth as a Tool
Our doctors have seen people use their teeth for just about everything! From opening bags of chips to uncapping bottles, many of us use our teeth to perform non-eating tasks without even thinking about it. However, doing this can be incredibly hard on your teeth. All it takes is one wrong move or a bad angle and a tooth can be chipped, fractured, or even torn out of your mouth.
Being mindful about what you use your teeth for can save you from unnecessary, avoidable pain and damage to your teeth. Try to reduce the amount of stress you place on them by keeping simple tools such as scissors and pliers in easily accessible places so you won’t be tempted to do the dirty work with your own incisors!
Break bad oral habits with the help of Foothill Orthodontics.
Dr. Chandler and Dr. Anderson at Foothill Orthodontists have the skill and experience necessary to identify and treat any type of orthodontic issues you may encounter. However, eliminating harmful habits is a key part of maintaining your oral health. Once you know all about bad habits to break whether or not you have braces, you can feel confident that you’re giving your smile the consideration it deserves!
If you’re in Salt Lake City or the surrounding areas and need a little help breaking free from a destructive oral habit, our team can help. Get in touch today to schedule a FREE consultation with our doctors!