We live, we learn, or at least, hopefully, we learn. That’s one of the reasons we are given baby teeth as children—to learn how to take care of them before the official ones kick in. But old habits can die hard, and some of us are guilty of oral habits that destroy our teeth. And while we would love to say that all ends well, for some, it doesn’t. This blog is a cautionary tale of destructive habits and the damage they can cause to teeth. We call it the good, the bad, and the ugly. The consequences of these oral habits can be severe, leading to tooth decay, sensitivity, and even tooth loss. It’s essential to understand the gravity of these issues to motivate you to take action. 

    1. Don’t bite your fingernails. You probably wouldn’t connect biting your fingernails with teeth damage, but you should. The shearing motion of chewing fingernails puts hard, pinpoint pressure on a small area of the teeth, which creates damage. Dr. Andy is great at analogies and shares this one, “Imagine a 400 lb. man wearing tennis shoes and a 100 lb. woman in stilettos walking across a basketball court; the woman in stilettos will cause damage to the court floor because of the pinpoint pressure placed with each step, but the man will not. Similarly, the pinpoint pressure from biting your fingernails can cause damage to your teeth over time, leading to tooth sensitivity and even tooth loss. 
    2. Avoid chewing ice. Ice is very hard and can cause tiny cracks in the enamel when chewed. These small cracks can weaken the teeth and make them more susceptible to further damage. Chewing on ice can also irritate the soft tissue inside a tooth, leading to toothaches. 
    3. Stop eating popcorn. This one may be difficult for movie lovers, but popcorn is one of the foods you should avoid eating. Who hasn’t inadvertently bitten down on a popcorn kernel? You probably came away unscathed, but many people bite down and have tooth breakage from biting a kernel unexpectedly. The sharp hulls often get stuck between teeth, leading to gum irritation and potential damage to the enamel.  Dr. Andy rarely eats popcorn. To him, it just isn’t worth it after seeing all of the damage that can occur.
    4. Don’t use teeth as tools. Yup, this is one of those things we cringe when seeing, but many of us are guilty of opening a bag of chips or cutting a tag when no scissors are available. Then there are the folks who pop bottle caps with their teeth – eek! Using teeth as tools is a destructive habit because it can chip, crack, or wear down teeth from excessive force or pressure, leading to tooth damage, sensitivity, and dental work to repair the harm caused. It’s like playing with fire, but your teeth are at risk in this case. It’s best to use actual tools for tasks and to protect your teeth from unnecessary wear and tear.
    5. Stop clenching or grinding teeth. Whether out of habit or because of stress, clenching and grinding teeth is trouble in the making. Clenching and grinding teeth over time will lead to broken, fractured, or worn-down teeth. Many people don’t know they are clenching or grinding their teeth. But the dentist can tell. Ask yours when you see them next.
    6. Control your acid reflux. We know acid reflux isn’t a habit or a choice; it just happens to some people. But if you know you have acid reflux, ensure your dentist monitors your teeth for erosion. When acid comes up, it will eventually erode the enamel of teeth. Dr. Andy has been doing a lot of repairs recently for people who have eroded teeth due to acid reflux. Consider yourself warned. 
    7. Stop eating so many sweets. We aren’t ashamed to admit that we partake in some sweet eating now and then. But if you have a sweet tooth, be conscious of the frequency with which you eat sweets. Sugar in sweet foods feeds the bacteria in the mouth and produces acids. Acids erode the tooth’s enamel, leading to decay and cavities. Plus, sticky sweets like gummy bears can cling to the teeth, prolonging the exposure of teeth to sugar and increasing the risk of damage.
    8. Don’t brush your teeth so hard. Placing too much pressure on your teeth when brushing can irritate the gum tissue, so it recedes and eventually leads to periodontal disease. Instead, use a soft-bristled toothbrush or Dr. Andy’s favorite, Sonicare. 

Destructive behaviors, such as those mentioned above, can cause enough damage to teeth that fillings, crowns, root canals, and other costly repairs are necessary. These repairs aren’t a one-and-done if you continue to do the same things that caused the issue in the first place. Restorations such as crowns are not immune to future damage. 

We don’t want you to walk away from reading this blog feeling down in the dumps. So, here is a little light at the end of the tunnel. If you are mindful of any destructive oral habits and commit to stop doing them, you can save your teeth. Dr. Andy has success stories of patients who damaged their teeth but took responsibility for how their actions led to the damage. They then made changes to help prevent further damage from happening. For example, we have a lot of patients who clench and grind their teeth. The best treatment is to wear a nightguard. When patients get on the nightguard bandwagon, their teeth are protected. That’s a great solution to a problem. This shows you can turn things around with the proper steps and improve your oral health. 

However, the relationship you have with your dentist is also essential. When your dentist knows you and cares about your oral health, they will work alongside you to develop solutions to potential issues they can see during an exam. If any of what we’ve shared rings true, schedule an appointment with your dentist so he can check things out and present solutions. Habits are hard to break, but we have faith that the education provided and a commitment to taking care of your chompers will lead to positive action. Remember, your dentist is here to support you on your journey to better oral health. 

Living Dental Health