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Do you have any of these habits? If so, you could be harming your teeth. Find out what they are and how to avoid them for a happy, healthy smile

Caring for your smile doesn’t just happen in the bathroom or at your San Diego dentist’s office. 


When it comes to dental health, a little mindfulness in our day-to-day lives goes a long way.


By adding a thing or two to your daily routine and removing some other common habits, you can help strengthen and shield your teeth from harm.


Below is a list of things that many of us do — often without even thinking about it — that can harm our mouths.


If you notice any that apply to you, don’t worry! We’ve included an idea or two under each item to help you break the habit. 


But be sure to look through the list carefully. You might find something you didn’t know was harmful!


1. Using Your Teeth as Nail Clippers

Of all the items on this list, nail-biting has to be the most common dental health-damaging habit. 


It’s so popular that there’s even a scientific term for it: Onychophagia…


And according to research by the Journal of Dermatological Treatment, anywhere from 20 to 30% of Americans compulsively bite their nails.


This habit is a big promoter of local infections around the nails, and putting the dirt and bacteria from under your nails into your mouth also leaves you with a greater risk of developing illnesses more often.


But how does biting your nails affect your dental health?


Well, first, your teeth simply aren’t made for chewing on hard objects like fingernails. Your enamel, the protective outer layer of your teeth, is meant solely for natural foods. 


When you chew on your nails, especially frequently over a long period of time, you wear down your enamel and leave yourself vulnerable to teeth chips, breaks, and even tooth decay.


Not only that, but the position you put your mouth in can affect the alignment of your jaw.


Usually, when you chew your nails, either your lower or upper jaw is extended outward. 


Combined with the force you put into biting down, this uneven position can lead to misalignment, clicking and popping when opening your mouth, and even jaw pain — also known as TMD.


How to Break the Habit

Since nail biting is often used as an outlet for stress, there are a few different ways to approach breaking the habit.


One of the most effective options is to apply a clear coat or some other kind of nail polish. Then, whenever you put your fingers in your mouth, the bad taste will deter you from biting down.


Another route you can take is to keep your hands busy in situations you know will stress you out. Try fidgeting with a pen, fidget cube, or other handheld items instead.


Finally, you can attack the problem at the source with relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, daily walks, or other mindfulness exercises.


2. Chewing on Ice

In line with number one’s theme of chewing on hard substances, our second habit is eating ice cubes. 


We know, we know…


The crunching sensation is super satisfying, and the ice feels so cool and refreshing!


But perhaps even more so than biting your nails, chewing on solid ice cubes is incredibly damaging to your enamel, and the sooner you stop, the better.


How to Break the Habit

The best way to kick this habit is to remove the temptation altogether. If you can help it, avoid using ice at all. Opt for beverages that are already cold, and order your drinks without ice when you go out to eat. 


3. Using Your Teeth to Open or Break Things

This habit can be tough to break because it feels so natural to use your teeth when your hands just aren’t cutting it.


One second, you’re trying to open a plastic package that just won’t budge, and the next thing you know, you’re tearing through it with your teeth.


Sound familiar? You’re certainly not alone.


But this habit poses the same risks for your dental health as biting your nails. Unfortunately, all the things that require a little oomph to rip, tear, and open are much too hard for our teeth to handle.


Not to mention, we’re putting our jaw in the same risky position that can cause alignment issues.


How to Break the Habit

If you’re having trouble with something, don’t be afraid to ask for help. 


Also, try to keep a pair of scissors handy wherever you typically need them (i.e., the kitchen, your home office, etc.).


Your smile is worth the extra few seconds it will take to find help or grab your scissors.


4. Holding Objects With Your Teeth

How often do you find yourself holding pens, pencils, straws, toothpicks, or other objects between your teeth? 


If the answer is regularly, then it might be time to switch things up.


Solid objects like these, even if you hold them gently in your mouth, still bump and grind up against your teeth…


And over time — especially if you have a habit of chewing on them — they can wear down your enamel.


How to Break the Habit

If you like to hold things like pens or straws in your mouth, try switching to some sugar-free gum.


Not only is it much softer on your teeth, but there’s also evidence that chewing gum sweetened with xylitol can actually help keep your teeth clean.


5. Not Drinking Enough Water

Water is the best drink for your smile, hands down. But drinking as much as we should is much easier said than done.


If you notice you tend to drink more coffee, soda, tea, or energy drinks than water throughout the day, your teeth could be more prone to staining and decay. 


All the beverages listed above are typically very acidic, and without enough water to balance things out, they can eat through your enamel.


How to Break the Habit

If your water consumption isn’t where it should be, try setting small goals. If you notice you drink four glasses of water every day, try adding one extra glass a day for the next week. Then, you can bump it up to two extra after that, and so on.


6. Nighttime or Stress-Related Grinding

Similar to nail-biting, teeth grinding is a typical stress response. It’s also an issue for many people while they sleep.


Constant clenching is just another item on this list that can cause chips, breaks, and jaw dysfunction if left unchecked.


How to Break the Habit

For daytime clenchers, try to make some time for mindfulness exercises and stress-relieving activities in your daily routine.


If you struggle with grinding at night, talk to your San Diego dentist about a nightguard. It’ll relieve a lot of the tension and allow you to get more restful sleep.


7. Constant Snacking

We can all relate to this habit on one level or another. 


Whether we work from home and the snacks are always within reach, or we like to chow down while watching our favorite shows, constant snacking can be a little too easy when we’re at home.


But the more your teeth come in contact with carbohydrate-rich, sugary foods, the more susceptible they are to tooth decay and cavities.


How to Break the Habit

To keep your snacking in check, try eating balanced meals with plenty of protein to keep you fuller for longer. And when you do reach for a snack, aim for one with as little added sugar as possible.


Oh, and don’t forget to wash it down with a glass of water!


The Best Habits for Your Smile

Of course, nothing beats daily brushing and flossing and regular checkups at your local San Diego dentist.


If you need any help kicking some bad dental habits, don’t be afraid to give us a call here at Dental Express. We’re always happy to hand out helpful advice. 


And if you need some quality dental care, we’re a family favorite in the area, and we tailor our services to each patient’s comfort level and budget.


Either way, we wish you and your smile the best on your journey to better oral health!


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