Here at Grubaugh Orthodontics, we always emphasize the importance of maintaining a consistent dental hygiene routine and avoiding habits that could interfere with the progress of orthodontic treatment. When patients wearing braces fail to dedicate time to proper oral care, it can result in longer treatment times and unsatisfying results. This advice isn’t just useful for our braces patients, though! Even if you brush and floss twice a day, you may have some other habits that could compromise your oral health. Let’s explore some bad habits to break where or not you have braces below!
Improper Dental Hygiene
Good dental hygiene is so much more than basic brushing and flossing. The tools you use to care for your teeth are just as important! Your toothbrush is the prime example. Many people believe that a firm toothbrush will be more effective for brushing. However, these bristles can actually cause gum irritation and sensitive teeth, especially for adults. This is because our gums recede as we age, exposing the roots of the teeth and increasing sensitivity. Find a toothbrush with soft bristles instead and brush gently to clean the teeth and gums.
You should always brush with fluoridated toothpaste at least twice a day, for two minutes each time, and floss every night before bed. This ensures that bacteria and food particles are completely removed, reducing your chances of developing tooth decay. You should also replace your toothbrush every three to four 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.
The technical term for this 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 prominent during the nighttime hours.
There are many potential causes for teeth grinding, including stress and anxiety, medications, certain medical conditions, and even genetics. It’s also commonly 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, however, has to do with the enamel. Over time, teeth grinding can wear down tooth enamel, eventually leading to the exposure of the much softer substance, called dentin, below. 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 treating any obvious underlying causes, such as reducing stress and anxiety, along with more proactive treatment, like wearing a mouthguard at night.
Sometimes it helps to simply bring awareness to the behavior. 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 effect. In some cases, Dr. Grubaugh may suggest wearing a nightguard to prevent any grinding while you’re asleep.
Chewing Ice (and Other Hard Objects)
Many people find themselves crunching on the leftover ice after finishing a drink. While you may think this a harmless habit, 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 more severe dental problems in time.
In addition to ice, popcorn kernels and pitted fruit also put excess stress on the teeth that can lead to fractures. Chewing on items like pencils, pen caps, and fingernails are often subconscious habits, but these 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
Dr. Grubaugh has seen people use their teeth for just about everything! From opening bags of chips to uncapping bottles, many of us use our teeth without even thinking about it. However, doing this can be incredibly hard on your teeth. All it takes is one wrong move and a tooth can be traumatized, chipped, or even fractured.
Being mindful about how you use your teeth can save you from any unnecessary and 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 Grubaugh Orthodontics.
Dr. Grubaugh has the skill and experience necessary to identify and treat any type of orthodontic issues you may encounter. However, eliminating harmful habits is a key part of maintaining your oral health. Once you know all about bad habits to break whether or not you have braces, you can feel reassured that you’re giving your smile the consideration it deserves!
If you’re in Lansing, Dewitt, or the surrounding areas and need a little help breaking a destructive oral habit, our team is here to help. Contact our office today to schedule a FREE consultation with Dr. Grubaugh!