5 bad habits that can be damaging to teeth

5 bad habits that can be damaging to teeth

Nail Biting

Do you know someone who bites her fingernails? According to WebMD, only a small number of adults bite their nails as most people stop nail biting by age 30. When it comes to younger age groups, however, studies have shown that 60% of children and 45% of teenagers bite their fingernails. While nail biting becomes less common after age 18, it can continue into adulthood.

You wouldn’t think that nail biting has much of an impact on the health of our teeth, but regular nail biting can cause our teeth to shift out of place and can potentially result in chips and cracks in the tooth and splinters in the enamel.

Some suggestions for curbing this bad habit include regular nail trimmings and applying a bitter-tasting paint or nail polish to the nails. Since nail biting is typically considered a common stress reliever, finding another way to relieve stress such as drawing or writing can help people put a stop to this tooth-damaging habit.


Teeth Clenching/Grinding

Clenching or grinding your teeth can cause a significant amount of pressure to the gums and jaw structure and can also cause fractures and micro-fractures in your teeth. Micro-fractures are weakened areas in your teeth that put them at risk for further damage.

This bad habit is often caused by stress. A great way to reduce stress is to practice yoga.


Chewing Ice Cubes

The cold temperature and the hardness of ice cubes can cause serious damage to your teeth. Curbing this bad habit is critical to maintaining strong, healthy teeth.

Interestingly, according to the Mayo Clinic, craving or chewing ice, also known as pagophagia, may be a sign of iron deficiency anemia. The reason for this craving is unclear, but it is a common side effect of an iron deficiency. Pagophagia or another form of pica, which is the craving and chewing of substances that contain no nutritional value such as ice, paper, or clay, could also be caused by stress.

If you have this bad habit, a visit with your physician may be in order to see if you have an iron deficiency. If it’s just stress, simply adding regular yoga practice to your routine could help you break this habit.


Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking is a common stress reliever for babies and young children. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most of us abandon thumb-sucking by age 8. However, an indie movie called Thumbsucker at the Sundance Film Festival in 2005, revealed many adults continue to suck their thumbs.

While this action can have a calming effect, it can also aid in improving alertness. The simple process of chewing or sucking is activated by the trigeminal nerve which is the largest cranial nerve. This nerve has branches to the parasympathetic nervous system, the division of the nervous system that is responsible for conserving and restoring energy in the body and maintaining and repairing the body. The trigeminal nerve also has branches to the reticular formation which is responsible for regulating the sleep-wake cycle, alertness, and attention.

The danger in sucking on fingers and thumbs after permanent teeth start to come in is that this action could cause permanent changes that affect the alignment of the teeth and jaw. It can cause the teeth to become misaligned, potentially resulting in trouble eating or breathing, says Richard Price, DMD, a retired Boston-area dentist and consumer advisor and spokesperson for the American Dental Association.

Thumb sucking can turn into the next bad habit on our list.


Biting into Lemons

Lemons are a great source of vitamin C and have a number of great health benefits including detoxification and improving alertness. But biting into a lemon is a bad idea. Lemons contain high levels of citric acid which can quickly wear away the enamel on your teeth. This can then result in greater tooth issues including cavities. Even sipping water with a lemon slice can damage the enamel to some degree.

If you crave that tartness and you must have that lemon fix, at least swish your mouth with water and wait a good hour before brushing your teeth to avoid further damage. Also, make sure saliva flow is adequate. Saliva is our body’s way of washing away bacteria and protecting our teeth and gums. If the mouth is dry, it creates an ideal environment for bacteria to grow, resulting in more serious dental health issues.