Identifying And Breaking Bad Oral Habits

For the last 40 years, Orthodontics of South Miami has been creating outstanding smiles for patients of all ages. That’s a huge part of what we do here, but it’s not the only thing we’re known for! 

As skilled and experienced specialists, Dr. Ross and Dr. Rothenberg frequently advise patients on maintaining a healthy smile throughout the orthodontic process. This is an important service since orthodontic patients have a greater risk of cavities and tooth decay during treatment. 

Our doctors’ advice covers the best dental hygiene practices and tackles bad habits that can undermine a patient’s efforts. The latter can affect anyone, however, not just those in braces or clear aligners. 

Bad oral habits are widespread, and you may be engaging in one or more of them without even realizing it. While they may seem harmless, these habits can actually damage your smile. No matter how well you brush and floss, these compulsions can compromise your oral health. To learn more about these destructive habits and how you can beat them, keep reading below! 

Using your teeth as tools

Over the years, we’ve seen our fair share of patients using their teeth in weird and surprising ways. Popping the cap off a bottle, ripping tags off clothing, opening up a bag of their favorite snack—you name it, and we’ve probably heard of it!  

While these may seem like time-savers, they can weaken your teeth, making them more susceptible to chipping or fracture. This can also lead to discomfort, pain, and increased sensitivity. Keep temptation to a minimum by placing simple tools like scissors, nail clippers, and pliers in convenient places so you can use them instead.

Ineffective brushing and flossing

When it comes to maintaining a healthy smile, how you brush and floss is almost as important as how often you do it. For example, many people believe that the firmer a toothbrush is, the better it is for cleaning teeth. Not only is this untrue, but firm bristles can cause problems, especially for older adults. That’s because our gums tend to recede as we age, leaving the roots of the teeth exposed. These roots are covered with cementum, which wears away more quickly than enamel. Brushing with firm bristles can irritate the gums and increase tooth sensitivity.

To keep your smile looking and feeling good throughout treatment, we recommend 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.

Sipping on sugary drinks (and crunching on the leftover ice)

Sipping on sweet beverages like soda and fruit juice throughout the day is another bad habit you’ll want to break for the sake of your smile! Constant exposure to sugar can increase the chances of developing tooth decay, while the acids in these drinks can wear down the enamel. This may result in tooth sensitivity and cavities.

Crunching on the leftover ice in your cup can seem like a harmless habit, too, but the texture and cold temperature of the cubes can be damaging. Chewing on ice regularly can result in microscopic cracks in the surface of the enamel, which may lead to other dental issues over time. The good news is, it’s easier to break these particular habits once you’re aware of them! 

Simple fixes like switching to crushed ice instead of cubes will help. If you feel like you just can’t live without soft drinks, try drinking them through a straw to minimize exposure to your teeth. For the most benefit, position the straw towards the back of your mouth instead of resting it against your teeth.

Identifying And Breaking Bad Oral Habits

Grinding your teeth

The technical term for teeth grinding is bruxism. This describes any involuntary grinding of the teeth that occurs outside of normal chewing, swallowing, or speaking movements. Tooth grinding is a relatively common habit with several possible causes, including:

  • stress and anxiety
  • medications
  • certain medical conditions
  • genetics
  • misalignment between the teeth and jaws
  • an abnormal bite
  • missing or crooked teeth

Many people grind their teeth without even realizing it, especially if it happens while they’re sleeping. Whether you’re aware of it or not, bruxism can cause several possible problems. These may range from interrupted sleep and headaches to pain in your jaw, face, or neck. It can also wear down the enamel of your teeth over time, exposing the soft dentin inside. Over time, this may result in painful tooth sensitivity.  

There are several possible solutions for this particular habit. The first step is to identify and treat any underlying causes. Once these have been addressed, a dentist or orthodontist can begin correcting any existing damage. Our doctors may also recommend proactive treatment to help prevent any further impact, which can often be accomplished with something as simple as overnight mouthguards.

Sometimes just being mindful of this habit can help you break it, especially if it’s a stress response. The next time you feel yourself beginning to clench or grind your teeth, try positioning the tip of your tongue between your teeth. Over time, this will train the jaw muscles to relax. You can hold a warm washcloth against your cheek to produce a similar effect.

Identifying And Breaking Bad Oral Habits

Break bad oral habits with help from Orthodontics of South Miami 

Here at Orthodontics of South Miami, we have two experienced doctors and an expert team trained to identify and treat various issues. Recognizing harmful oral habits and helping patients address them is part of that, too! If you suffer from any of these bad habits and want to achieve a healthier smile, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch today to schedule a FREE consultation and take the first step towards improved oral health!