Oral Hygiene Habits That Might Be Hurting Your Smile

Here at Dillehay Orthodontics, we try to stress the importance of maintaining good dental hygiene and avoiding harmful oral habits that would inhibit the progress of orthodontic treatment. When patients who wear braces don’t dedicate time to caring for their teeth and gums, it can lead to longer treatment times and lower-quality results. Even if you brush and floss twice daily, you could have other oral hygiene habits that might be hurting your smile. That’s why we’re taking a look at some bad habits to break whether or not you have braces. Keep reading to learn some simple oral hygiene habits that you can incorporate into your daily routine that will keep you from hurting your smile!

Unexpected Dental Hygiene Tips

Good dental hygiene is so much more than just brushing and flossing. The tools you use to care for your teeth are important too! Your toothbrush is a perfect example. Many people believe that a firm toothbrush is better for brushing. However, firmer brushes can actually cause gum irritation and sensitive teeth, especially for adults. That’s because our gums recede as we age, exposing the roots of the teeth and increasing sensitivity. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles instead and brush gently to clean the teeth and gums. 

You should be brushing with fluoridated toothpaste at least twice a day, for two minutes each time, and flossing every night before bed. This ensures that bacteria and food particles are completely removed, reducing your risk of developing tooth decay. You should also replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months, or sooner if you have a cold or any other illness. Using antimicrobial and fluoride mouthwashes once a day can help to further improve your oral health by eliminating the bacteria that cause bad breath and gum disease. 

Teeth Grinding

The technical term for teeth grinding is “bruxism” and it refers to the involuntary grinding of the teeth outside of normal chewing, swallowing, or speaking movements. This can occur during the day, at night, or both, although it’s often more noticeable during the nighttime hours. There are many possible causes for teeth grinding, including stress and anxiety, medications, certain medical conditions, and even genetics. It is also associated with misalignment between the teeth and jaws, abnormal bites, and missing or crooked teeth. 

Teeth grinding can cause a variety of issues, from disrupted sleep to jaw pain and headaches. The most destructive issue, however, is the risk this poses to your enamel. Over time, teeth grinding can wear down tooth enamel, eventually exposing your dentin, a much softer substance that’s below your enamel. Once that dentin is exposed, tooth sensitivity can become a real problem. The sensations can range from mild to intense and may be long-lasting. 

There are several solutions for bruxism that can treat any damage that’s already present and prevent any further damage. This typically involves addressing underlying causes like stress and anxiety, along with more proactive treatment, like wearing a mouthguard at night. 

Sometimes it helps to simply bring awareness to the fact that this behavior occurs. If you feel yourself clenching or grinding your teeth, try positioning the tip of your tongue between your teeth to train the jaw muscles to relax. At night, you can hold a warm washcloth against your cheek to produce the same relaxing effect.  

Chewing Ice (and Other Hard Objects) 

Many people find themselves crunching on the leftover ice after finishing a drink. This may seem like a harmless habit, but the texture and temperature of ice cubes can actually fracture your teeth! Chewing ice can also cause microscopic cracks in the surface of the tooth enamel, which could lead to other dental problems down the road.

Ice cubes aren’t the only thing to avoid. Popcorn kernels and pitted fruit also put undue stress on the teeth and can lead to fractures, as well. Chewing on items like pencils, pen caps, and fingernails are often subconscious habits, but they can also chip away at the enamel, crack the teeth, and irritate the soft tissue inside a tooth.  

If you often find yourself chewing on things or biting your nails, try using sugarless gum to give your mouth something else to do! Healthy snacks with a satisfying crunch (like carrots, celery, or apple slices) can also be a good substitute. As an added bonus, these foods are also great for your teeth and oral health!

Using Your Teeth as a Tool

Our doctors have seen people use their teeth for just about everything! From opening bags of chips to uncapping bottles, many of us use our teeth to perform non-eating tasks without even thinking about it. However, doing this can be incredibly hard on your teeth. All it takes is one wrong move or a bad angle and a tooth can be traumatized, chipped, or even fractured. 

Being mindful about what you use your teeth for can save you from any unnecessary, avoidable pain and damage to your teeth. Try to reduce the amount of stress you place on them by keeping simple tools such as scissors and pliers in easily accessible places so you won’t be tempted to do the dirty work with your own incisors! 

Break Bad Oral Habits with the Help of Dillehay Orthodontics. 

Dr. Ken Dillehay and Dr. JK Dillehay have the skill and experience necessary to identify and treat any type of orthodontic issues you may encounter. However, eliminating harmful oral hygiene habits that might be hurting your teeth is a key part of maintaining your smile health. Once you know all about bad habits to break whether or not you have braces, you can feel confident that you’re giving your smile the consideration it deserves!

If you’re in Wichita, Derby, or the surrounding areas and need a little help breaking free from a destructive oral habit, our team can help. Get in touch today to schedule a FREE consultation with our doctors!