Here at Windy City Orthodontics, we know the importance of a proactive approach to oral care. That’s why our talented team loves teaching all about caring for smiles outside of the guidelines of orthodontic treatment! Creating smiles that are happy and healthy is rewarding, challenging, and a lot of fun. Aside from straightening teeth and keeping them clean, Dr. Pakravan hands out a lot of advice. While we have a great deal of dental wisdom to share with the families we treat, one simple tip stands out because it applies to everyone: figure out the best oral hygiene routine for you and stick to it! Breaking bad habits that can harm your smile is a large part of this process.
Even if you’re not in braces or clear aligners, it’s a good idea to look at how effective your own dental hygiene routine is. After all, recommendations change occasionally and it’s important to keep up with the latest expert information. One thing that doesn’t change, however, is the importance of caring for your teeth by brushing, flossing, and avoiding bad habits that can harm your smile. When it comes to the latter, you may be engaging in some of these without even realizing it! We’ll take a look at some of the worst offenders below, so keep reading to learn more.
Ignoring the basics
The most common bad habit we see is ignoring the basics of a healthy oral care routine. In an ideal world, brushing and flossing once or twice a day would only be the first steps you take to keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy! The way you brush and floss is almost as important as how often you do it. To get the best out of your dental hygiene routine, try following these basic guidelines:
- Brush at least twice a day for two minutes each time.
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste.
- Floss every night before bed to remove stubborn food particles and get rid of sticky plaque.
- Add an antimicrobial or fluoride mouthwash to eliminate the bacteria that cause bad breath and gum disease.
- Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months, or sooner if you’ve had a cold or any other illness.
Chewing ice and other objects
Who doesn’t love crunching the leftover ice in their cup? Who among us hasn’t gnawed at a fingernail from time to time? These common habits may seem harmless, but the truth is, they can cause real damage to your teeth and gums. For example, the temperature and texture of ice can cause microscopic cracks in the surface of the enamel when you chew it, which can lead to other dental problems over time.
Biting your nails or chewing on other objects can also chip away at your tooth enamel. In some cases, it can irritate the soft tissue inside the teeth as well. Giving your teeth something else to do can be a helpful way to break this habit! Try chewing a piece of sugarless gum instead, or look for a healthy snack that comes with a satisfying crunch, like apples, carrots, or celery.
Grinding your teeth
The technical term for teeth grinding is bruxism. This is defined as any involuntary grinding of the teeth that occurs outside of normal chewing, swallowing, or speaking movements. This common though involuntary habit has several possible causes, including:
- stress and anxiety
- certain medical conditions
- misalignment between the teeth and jaws
- an abnormal bite
- missing or crooked teeth
Bruxism can cause serious problems and you may not even know you’re doing it! Grinding your teeth can interrupt your sleep, cause chronic headaches, and result in pain felt around your jaw, face, or neck. It can also wear down the enamel of your teeth over time. If this exposes the softer dentin inside, it may increase tooth sensitivity.
Thankfully, there are several ways to tackle teeth grinding! Underlying causes like stress, anxiety, and misaligned bites should be identified and treated. Many of the available solutions will treat any existing damage while helping to prevent any further impairment. Proactive treatment may be recommended as well, such as wearing a mouthguard overnight.
Sometimes a simple awareness of this habit can help you beat it, particularly if it’s a response to being angry, stressed out, or anxious. If you feel yourself beginning to clench or grind your teeth, try positioning the tip of your tongue between your teeth. This will train the jaw muscles to relax over time. Holding a warm washcloth against your cheek can often produce the same relaxing effect.
Using teeth as tools
It can be tempting to rip open a package with your teeth or use them to tear the tags off your clothes. Using your teeth as tools can be tough on them, though! It doesn’t take much to traumatize or chip a tooth. To keep temptation at a minimum, try to keep simple tools like scissors, nail clippers, and pliers in convenient places around your house. When you reduce the amount of unnecessary stress on your teeth, it will help keep them strong and healthy for many years to come!
Give your smile some TLC with help from Windy City Orthodontics
With years of experience successfully treating a range of orthodontic and dental issues, Dr. Pakravan and the Windy City Orthodontics team are uniquely qualified to identify the bad habits that could be damaging your teeth and jaw. If you’re ready to take the first step towards a stronger smile and improved oral health, get in touch today to schedule a FREE consultation with our Chicago office!