Harmful habits that can seriously damage your oral health
Most of the time, the first thing people notice about you is your smile. It is vital to your overall appearance and can be a telling indicator of your oral health. As part of maintaining good dental hygiene, it’s critical to avoid harmful habits that can seriously damage your teeth and gums.
In this blog, we will discuss common habits that can jeopardise oral health. If your oral health radar is already active, you likely already avoid some obvious items on this list. However, as the list progresses you will discover damaging habits you may not yet have considered.
1. Smoking cigarettes
Smoking is one of the most detrimental habits for your oral health. Here are some ways they can damage your teeth and gums:
Tooth discolouration: Nicotine and tar found in cigarettes can cause stains on your teeth. In a short time, teeth can turn yellow, and heavy smokers may experience brown discolouration over years.
Bad breath: Smoking can cause a persistent, foul odour in your mouth, which is commonly referred to as a smoker’s breath.
Gum disease: Smoking weakens your immune system, making it easier for harmful bacteria to grow in your mouth. This can lead to gum disease, characterised by bleeding, swollen and receding gums.
Tooth decay: Smoking can dry out your mouth, reducing saliva production. Saliva helps neutralise acids and prevent tooth decay. Reduced saliva increases your risk of cavities.
Oral cancer: Smoking is a significant risk factor for oral cancer. The chemicals in tobacco can damage cells in your mouth, leading to the development of cancer.
Giving up cigarettes is one of the best decisions you can make for your oral and overall health. Your dentist can offer advice and support to help you stop smoking.
2. Aggressive brushing
While regular brushing is essential for oral hygiene, brushing with excessive force can have adverse effects.
Receding gums: Applying too much pressure can cause your gums to recede, exposing the sensitive tooth roots and increasing the risk of gum disease.
Tooth sensitivity: Aggressive brushing can wear down your tooth enamel, leading to heightened tooth sensitivity when consuming hot or cold foods and drinks.
Enamel erosion: Vigorous brushing can harm the enamel, the outer protective layer of your teeth. Once enamel is lost, it cannot be restored.
To maintain healthy teeth and gums, use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in circular motions. Avoid vigorously scrubbing your teeth.
3. Teeth grinding (Bruxism)
Teeth grinding, or bruxism, typically occurs unconsciously during sleep or when stressed. This habit may severely harm your oral health.
Enamel erosion: Grinding your teeth can wear down the enamel, making your teeth more vulnerable to damage.
Headaches and jaw pain: Bruxism can lead to headaches, jaw pain and even temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), causing discomfort and limiting jaw movement.
Tooth sensitivity: As enamel erodes, it exposes the dentin, a softer layer beneath the enamel. This can lead to increased tooth sensitivity.
If you suspect you grind your teeth, consult your dentist. They may recommend a night guard to protect your teeth from the effects of grinding.
4. Nail biting
Biting your nails can be a seemingly harmless habit, but it can negatively impact your oral health.
Gum damage: Nail biting can damage your gum tissue, increasing the risk of gum disease.
Tooth damage: The force exerted while biting your nails can lead to chipped, cracked or broken teeth.
Oral bacteria: Nails are often covered in bacteria, and introducing these germs into your mouth can lead to infections.
Breaking the habit of nail biting is essential for preserving your oral health. Try stress-reduction techniques, keeping your nails trimmed or seeking professional help if needed.
5. Skipping regular dental check-ups
Neglecting routine dental check-ups and cleanings every 6 months can have severe consequences for your oral health.
Gum disease: Without regular dental cleanings, plaque and tartar can accumulate, increasing the risk of gum disease.
Tooth decay: Untreated cavities can progress and lead to more extensive dental problems.
Oral cancer detection: Your dentists can screen for early signs of oral cancer during routine check-ups, increasing the chances of early detection and successful treatment.
Preventive care: Regular dental visits allow for preventive measures like fluoride treatments and sealants, which can protect your teeth from decay.
6. Excessive alcohol consumption
While occasional drinking may not be detrimental to oral health, excessive alcohol consumption can cause many dental problems:
Dry mouth (Xerostomia): As a diuretic, alcohol prompts increased urine production, leading to dehydration. Dehydration, in turn, reduces saliva production, causing a dry mouth and increasing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Oral cancer: Chronic alcohol consumption is a risk factor for oral cancer. Alcohol can irritate the mouth and throat tissues, potentially leading to cancerous growths.
Tooth erosion: Alcoholic beverages, especially acidic ones, can erode tooth enamel over time, making your teeth more susceptible to damage.
To safeguard your oral health, consume alcohol in moderation, stay hydrated and maintain good oral hygiene practices.
7. Sugary and acidic diet
A diet high in sugary and acidic foods and beverages can be detrimental to your teeth.
Tooth decay: Sugars provide food for mouth bacteria, which produce acids that attack tooth enamel, eventually leading to cavities.
Enamel erosion: Acidic foods and drinks, like citrus fruits, soda and sports drinks, can soften and erode tooth enamel, making your teeth more susceptible to damage.
To protect your teeth, limit your consumption of sugary and acidic foods and beverages. Remember to brush and rinse your mouth after indulging in them.
8. Chewing ice or hard objects
Chewing on hard objects like ice, pens or pencils can put excessive pressure on your teeth, leading to:
Chipped or cracked teeth: Biting down on hard objects can cause fractures or chips in your teeth, requiring dental repair.
Tooth sensitivity: The force exerted while chewing on hard objects can lead to tooth sensitivity, making it uncomfortable to consume hot or cold items.
To protect your teeth, avoid chewing on hard objects and opt for healthier alternatives like sugar-free gum.
9. Using your teeth as tools
Using your teeth for purposes they weren’t intended for, such as opening bottles, tearing packing or other tasks, can lead to:
Tooth damage: This habit can lead to chipped, cracked or broken teeth, necessitating dental treatment.
Gum injury: Your gums can also be injured when using your teeth inappropriately, potentially causing bleeding or discomfort.
Always use the appropriate tools for certain tasks and refrain from using your teeth as substitutes.
10. Ignoring oral health during pregnancy
Pregnancy is a crucial time to prioritise oral health. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can increase the risk of gum disease and other dental problems.
Pregnancy gingivitis: Hormonal shifts can lead to gum inflammation, known as pregnancy gingivitis. Proper oral care is essential to prevent and manage this condition.
Increased risk of decay: Changes in diet and acidity levels in the mouth during pregnancy can increase the risk of tooth decay.
Pregnant individuals should continue regular dental check-ups and maintain a consistent oral hygiene routine.
Avoid bad dental habits for a brighter smile
It takes more than daily brushing and flossing to maintain a healthy smile. Excellent oral health requires avoiding harmful habits as much as establishing good ones. These precautions are the keys to a healthy smile that stays cavity-free in the long-term. Remember, your dentist is your partner in achieving and maintaining excellent oral health, so don’t hesitate to seek their guidance and care.
Your oral health impacts your overall health, so stay mindful of your habits to protect your smile!