You know what they say, it only takes two weeks to form a habit. Of course, whoever “they” are only seemed to be referring to bad habits. Otherwise, we’d all be gym-going, organic-food-eating yogis with sky-high credit scores and a talent for learning new musical instruments.
Yes indeed, bad habits have a way of sticking to us like spinach to teeth that good ones just don’t seem to. Thankfully, most of the bad habits that we adopt over the years are relatively harmless. A hair-twirling habit, for example, might drive your aesthetician crazy but, at the most, it’ll only cost you some split ends. Counting your steps while walking? That just makes you a human Fitbit.
But not all of our mistakes are quite as harmless as making sure that the volume on the TV always lands on an even number. (Or… is that just us?) Some of our other habits can actually have a real impact and do some lasting damage. There’s a reason our parents and teachers told us to stop cracking our knuckles—and it wasn’t just because they didn’t like the sound.
Surprisingly, there are a ton of habits that many people don’t even know they have that are slowly but surely damaging their teeth. Which one of these bad habits are preventing you from having the healthiest and happiest smile you can?
When people think of bad oral habits, nail-biting is usually the first thing that comes to mind. That’s because it’s also one of the most common bad oral habits to have. And one of the most potentially damaging. Whether people develop the habit as a nervous response or out of boredom—or they suffer from LONC (lack of nail-clipper)—the result is the same. Chewing and biting nails is bad news for your oral health.
Our nails are comprised of, mostly, a protein called keratin. And even though keratin ranks lower than tooth enamel on the Mohs hardness scale, that doesn’t mean that our nails can’t damage our teeth. Repeatedly biting and chewing nails will, over time, erode tooth enamel and contribute to tooth decay. And that’s not even the worst part.
We use our hands for pretty much every task we perform and, as a result, they get quite dirty. Even if we do wash our hands regularly and thoroughly—in warm water with soap for at least 20seconds—they inevitably collect germs and bacteria from the exterior environment. All of those potentially harmful bacteria tend to gather under our fingernails and can contribute to bad breath or, worse yet, lead to an infection that causes gum disease.
Using Your Teeth as Tools
Sometimes, the toolbox is just too far away. But tempting as it might be to treat your mouth like Batman’s utility belt, for the sake of your oral and dental health, just go to the shed and get the toolbox.
The bad habit of using one’s teeth as a tool has all of the same downsides as nail-biting… with some added danger to boot.
Frequently using your teeth to tear open packages or remove staplers carries the same risk as nail-biting of eroding tooth enamel over time. And using your teeth outside of their intended purpose—to chew food—can also result in chipped teeth or other forms of dental and oral injury.
Furthermore, some of the construction-like jobs that we task our teeth with require us to put items in our mouths that are far dirtier than our hands. How often do you wash that bag of potato chips with soap and warm water?
Brushing Too Hard
If you brush your teeth and floss twice daily then take a bow, you’re a dental care hero! Unless you’ve been scrubbing your teeth like you’re trying to remove stains from grout. In which case, you’re still a hero… just not to your teeth and gums.
Applying too much pressure when you brush your teeth—even if you’re using a soft-bristled toothbrush—can do as much harm as good. All of that force will erode your gums and can leave vulnerable parts of your teeth exposed, leading to increased sensitivity and, potentially, gum disease.
Understandably, it can be difficult to gauge exactly how much pressure is the right amount when brushing your teeth. After all, you do want to remove stains and shake loose any stubborn food bits.
If you’re uncertain whether or not this particular bad habit applies to you or how much pressure you should use when brushing, you can always consult your dentist. And, for everyday use at home, many electric toothbrushes come equipped with sensors that will tell you when you’re brushing too hard.
Let’s Break the Habit Together
These are just some of the most common bad oral habits that could be doing lasting damage to your teeth. Fortunately, it’s nothing that we, at Applewood Dental, haven’t seen and aren’t well-equipped to treat. Book your next appointment with us today and let us help you break that bad habit. But you’re on your own for that leg-shaking.