Bad Habits to Break Whether You Have Braces or Not

Lincoln Orthodontics has been making families smile for 25 years here in our community, so we’ve seen our fair share of patients come through the door. Whether they’re in braces, clear aligners, or another appliance, one of our most important tips for achieving a healthy smile is to find a dental hygiene routine that works and stick to it! One aspect of that is identifying bad habits to break whether you have braces or not. When patients don’t take good care of their teeth and gums, it makes our job harder—poor oral health can interrupt progress and increase the total treatment time. 

While orthodontic patients need to be especially vigilant about proper brushing and flossing, it’s a good idea for everyone to examine their dental hygiene from time to time. Recommendations may change, and there could be something you’re missing. Even if you do pay close attention to your oral health, you could have some bad habits that can affect your smile! Keep reading below to learn more about some of the worst ones and how breaking them can give you a happier mouth and healthier teeth. 

Not enough effort when it comes to oral hygiene 

Doing a quick brush a couple of times a day is better than nothing, but your dental hygiene routine really should include more than the basics! Take your toothbrush, for example. You may think that firmer bristles are better for effectively cleaning the teeth, but they can actually irritate the gums and may lead to sensitive teeth, especially for older adults. Because our gums tend to recede as we age, the roots become exposed and we may experience increased sensitivity. A soft-bristled toothbrush will provide extra comfort and better results, especially when you use gentle strokes to clean your teeth and gums.

We recommend brushing with fluoridated toothpaste at least twice a day for two minutes each time and flossing each night before bed. This will make all the difference in removing food debris and plaque, keeping your teeth clean, and reducing your chances of developing tooth decay. Be sure to replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months as well, or sooner if you have a cold or any other illness. You can also use antimicrobial and fluoride mouthwashes to further eliminate the types of bacteria that cause bad breath and gum disease.

Grinding your teeth

Tooth grinding, also known as bruxism, is the involuntary grinding of the teeth outside of normal chewing, swallowing, or speaking movements. There are many possible causes for this, including:

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

Frequent grinding of your teeth can cause interrupted sleep, chronic headaches, and jaw pain. It can also wear down the enamel of your teeth if it’s not treated, eventually exposing the much softer dentin inside. This may result in tooth sensitivity, with symptoms ranging from mild to intense. These symptoms may even be long-lasting, depending on the severity of the problem.

There are several options for addressing tooth grinding. Many of these solutions will help prevent any further damage and also treat any damage that has already occured. Reducing stress, treating anxiety, and addressing any dental or orthodontic issues can often have a positive effect on tooth grinding, along with proactive treatment like wearing a mouthguard overnight.

Crunching ice and chewing on other objects

Crunching on ice is a common habit, and while it may seem like a perfectly harmless one, the freezing temperature and tough texture are enough to cause microscopic cracks in the surface of the enamel. This can lead to several other dental issues given enough time. Biting down on ice the wrong way can even fracture your teeth! Ice isn’t the only culprit here, though. Popcorn kernels and fruit pits can also put extra stress on the teeth and occasionally lead to fractures.  To keep your smile safe, be mindful about what you put in your mouth and aware of what you’re biting down on. 

If you deal with boredom or the need for distraction by chewing on your pencils, pen caps, or fingernails, you should reconsider this habit. Over time, it can chip away at your tooth enamel and irritate the soft tissue inside the teeth. If this is a problem for you, try giving your mouth something else to do, like chewing sugarless gum or snacking on something with a satisfying crunch. Carrots, celery, or apple slices are a healthy substitute and just happen to be good for your teeth! 

Using your teeth as a tool

You’d be surprised at what we’ve seen teeth used for over our years in orthodontics! Tearing open bags, ripping tags off clothing, uncapping bottles—anything like this you could think of, we’ve probably witnessed or at least heard about. Many people do this without even thinking about it, but using your teeth as tools can be really rough on them! It only takes one wrong move for a tooth to be traumatized, chipped, or even fractured.

Try to stop and think when you’re about to use your teeth for something that could be harmful. You can make this easier by keeping simple tools like scissors, nail clippers, and pliers in convenient places around the house so you aren’t tempted to do the dirty work with your teeth! Reducing the amount of stress on them will help keep your teeth strong for years to come.

Improve your oral health with Lincoln Orthodontics

Dr. Willet is an experienced orthodontist who has been trained to diagnose and treat a wide variety of orthodontic issues. Identifying harmful oral habits is an important part of that process, but you don’t have to be an orthodontic patient to benefit from the advice we’ve highlighted above! Once you’re aware of these bad habits to break whether you have braces or not, you can take the best care of your smile. 

If you’re in Lincoln or the surrounding areas and need some help breaking a harmful oral habit, our expert team is here to help! Get in touch today to schedule a FREE consultation in our conveniently located office and take the first step towards maintaining a healthier smile for life!