Here at New England Orthodontic Specialists, we’re proud to offer advanced orthodontic solutions for every smile need. Over the years, we’ve worked with hundreds of patients to straighten teeth and improve oral health! In that time, we’ve also handed out a lot of helpful tips on how to keep smiles looking and feeling great. Some of the most important information we can provide is about bad habits to break whether you have braces or not.
Avoiding harmful habits and maintaining good oral hygiene are especially critical for orthodontic patients. Failure to do so can stall progress, increase treatment times, and in some cases, may even affect the final results. Patients in braces are particularly susceptible to cavities during treatment, so a solid brushing and flossing routine really is non-negotiable. But this advice isn’t only applicable to our braces patients! Everyone could benefit from examining their dental hygiene from time to time.
Even if you put a lot of effort into your oral health and see your dentist regularly, you could pick up bad habits that affect your smile. Let’s take a look at what those may be and how getting a handle on them can give you a healthier mouth, whether you wear braces or not! Keep reading below to learn more.
The building blocks of good oral hygiene
Many people think they have their bases covered as long as they brush a couple of times a day, but your dental hygiene routine should go beyond that. Your toothbrush is a great example! You may think that firmer bristles are better for cleaning the teeth, but they can actually irritate the gums and may lead to teeth becoming more sensitive.
This is especially true for older adults, as our gums tend to recede as we age, exposing the roots of the teeth and increasing sensitivity levels. For the best results, you’re better off using a soft-bristled toothbrush and gentle strokes to clean the teeth and gums.
As far as brushing itself goes, Dr. Diana and Dr. Neil recommend using fluoridated toothpaste at least twice a day and brushing for two minutes each time. Don’t forget to floss every night before bed, too! This will get rid of any stubborn food particles and lessen the build-up of plaque, reducing your chances of developing tooth decay.
Mark your calendar every 3-4 months to remind you that it’s time to replace your toothbrush, but do it sooner if you have a cold or any other illness. Antimicrobial and fluoride mouthwashes can also improve your oral health by eliminating the types of bacteria that cause bad breath and gum disease!
Chewing on various objects
Many adults we see at NEOS find themselves crunching on ice or chewing their fingernails when they’re bored or need a distraction. These may seem like harmless habits, but they can be destructive to your teeth. The freezing temps and tough texture of ice cubes are enough to cause fractures, and biting down on them can also introduce microscopic cracks into the surface of the enamel. Given enough time, this can lead to several other dental issues.
Ice isn’t the only culprit here, though! Chewing on pencils, pen caps, or your fingernails are often subconscious habits, but they can chip away at the tooth enamel and irritate the soft tissue inside the teeth. If this is something you struggle with, try giving your mouth something else to do, like chewing sugarless gum or snacking on something healthy that has a satisfying crunch, like fresh fruits or veggies. These are good for you and your oral health!
Grinding your teeth
Tooth grinding, or bruxism, is the involuntary grinding of the teeth outside of normal chewing, swallowing, or speaking movements. There are several possible causes for this, which can include:
- stress and anxiety
- certain medical conditions
- misalignment between the teeth and jaws
- an abnormal bite
- missing or crooked teeth
Bruxism can cause quite a few problems, from interrupted sleep to chronic headaches and many issues in between. It can also wear down the enamel of your teeth if it’s not treated, eventually exposing the much softer dentin inside. This may result in tooth sensitivity, with symptoms ranging from mild to intense.
There are several options for reducing or eliminating the symptoms associated with tooth grinding. Many of these solutions will help prevent any further damage and also treat any that’s already present. This generally involves addressing and correcting obvious underlying causes, like stress, anxiety, or untreated orthodontic issues. Dr. Diana and Dr. Neil may recommend proactive treatment as well, such as wearing a mouthguard overnight.
Sometimes it helps to simply be aware that you’re grinding your teeth! If you feel yourself clenching or grinding your teeth, you can try positioning the tip of your tongue between your teeth to train the jaw muscles to relax. Holding a warm washcloth against your cheek can often produce the same effect and is a calming way to end your day.
Using your teeth as a tool
You’d be surprised at what we’ve seen people use their teeth for over the years here at NEOS! Tearing open bags, ripping tags off clothing, uncapping bottles—we’ve seen or heard it all. Many people do this without even thinking about it, but using your teeth as tools can be tough on them. After all, it only takes one wrong move for a tooth to be traumatized, chipped, or fractured.
With that in mind, try to stop and think when you’re about to use your teeth for something that could be harmful. Keep simple tools like scissors, nail clippers, and pliers in convenient places around the house so you aren’t tempted to do the dirty work with your mouth. Reducing the amount of unnecessary stress on your teeth will help keep them strong for years to come.
Beat bad oral habits with help from New England Orthodontic Specialists
As experienced orthodontists, Dr. Diana and Dr. Neil have been trained to diagnose and correct a multitude of orthodontic issues. Identifying harmful oral habits is an important part of that process, too, but you don’t have to be an orthodontic patient to benefit from breaking a bad habit if it’s hurting your oral health!
If you’re in Beverly, Topsfield, South Hamilton, or Salem, we can help you break free from destructive oral habits. Get in touch today to schedule a FREE consultation with our expert team and take the first step towards stronger teeth, a healthier smile, and lasting oral health.