Breaking Harmful Oral Habits

Here at Stacy Wolf Orthodontics, we’re proud to help patients achieve beautiful smiles they want to share with the world! We’re able to do this thanks to our cutting-edge technology and expert techniques, but there’s more to our process than simply straightening teeth. Our Bayside office also advises patients on a range of topics, including oral hygiene. This is an important service, as orthodontic patients are more prone to dental issues and must maintain a healthy smile throughout the treatment process!

Dr. Wolf’s advice also covers any bad habits that can undermine a patient’s best efforts. These can affect anyone, however, not just those wearing braces or clear aligners. Bad oral habits are everywhere. In fact, you may be engaging in one or more of them without even realizing it! These habits might seem harmless, but the truth is, any of them can seriously compromise your oral health. To learn more about these bad habits and how you can beat them, keep reading below! 

An inadequate oral hygiene routine

When it comes to keeping your smile healthy, 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.

Want to keep your teeth in good shape while we straighten them? Try following these basic guidelines to get the most out of your oral hygiene routine. 

  • 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 sweet stuff (and crunching the leftover ice)

Sipping on sweet beverages like soda and fruit juice throughout the day can wreak havoc on your smile. Constant exposure to sugar can increase the risk of developing tooth decay, while the acid can wear down the enamel. Over time, this may result in tooth sensitivity and cavities.

Crunching on the leftover ice in your cup may seem harmless, too, but the texture and cold temperature of the cubes can damage your teeth. Chewing on ice can cause microscopic cracks in the surface of the enamel, which may lead to other dental issues. 

Simple fixes can help!  Switch to crushed ice instead of cubes, for instance, and drink soda or juices through a straw to minimize exposure to your teeth. Just be sure to position the straw towards the back of your mouth instead of resting it against your teeth. 

Breaking Harmful Oral Habits

Using your teeth as tools

Our office has seen its fair share of patients using their teeth in surprising ways over the years, like popping the cap off a bottle, ripping tags off clothing, and opening up a bag of their favorite snacks. It might seem like these are saving you time at the moment, but using your teeth as tools can weaken them. This makes them more susceptible to chipping or fracture and may 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.

Teeth grinding

The technical term for teeth grinding is bruxism. This describes any involuntary grinding of the teeth outside 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. Dr. Wolf 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.

Breaking Harmful Oral Habits

Say goodbye to bad oral habits with help from Stacy Wolf Orthodontics

Dr. Stacy Wolf is a highly trained and skilled orthodontist. She spent many years learning to identify and treat various orthodontic issues, including harmful oral habits. If you have a bad habit you want to quit, we’re here to help! Get in touch today to schedule a FREE consultation and take the first step towards a healthier smile!