You want to keep your teeth healthy, so you do your best to brush regularly, floss and use mouthwash, all of which make for a great start. But while you care for your teeth in the morning and night, your daily habits could be having a negative effect on your good oral hygiene. Whether it’s guzzling a can of diet soda or tearing open a bag of chips with your teeth, bad daily habits could add up to serious damage in the long run. But it’s just as easy to keep things strong in there — it’s time to halt that bad behavior and save your teeth. We take a look at some common bad dental habits, and how to put them to a stop.

Using your teeth as tools
We’re all guilty of using our teeth as a tool. Whether it’s shortening your fingernails or tearing through a plastic package, using your teeth as a substitute for clippers or scissors could result in chipped or cracked teeth, an injury to your jaw or other damage. If you find yourself biting a plastic package or opening a ream of paper with your teeth, it might be a good idea to pick up a key ring multi-tool the next time you’re at the hardware store. With tools like small scissors, a nail file and clippers inside, keeping a tool on your key ring means you’ll never have to resort to using your teeth as a Swiss Army knife again.

Brushing after eating acidic foods
You might think it’s a good idea to brush away the erosive acid from your teeth after consuming fruit juice or soda, but this is actually damaging to the teeth. The combination of the acid along with the abrasive act of brushing can cause erosion of the enamel, which can lead to cavities. Instead of brushing, opt to swish with water instead or chew gum, which increases saliva production, thereby neutralizing the acid and making it safe to brush.

Chewing and crunching on ice
Ice is calorie-free and has a satisfying crunch. But did you realize that the cold makes your teeth far more fragile? If you drink an iced drink and then chew the ice afterwards, your teeth (already brittle from the temperature) can develop microscopic fractures in the enamel and eventually break altogether, sometimes right down to the root. Crushed ice is slightly better, but is still bad for you. Although you’re not fracturing your teeth, the cold is still making your teeth brittle and vulnerable to damage.

Not flossing
If you’re brushing but not flossing, you’re only doing half of the job. Flossing is absolutely necessary to preserving your smile, preventing cavities, and even promoting a healthy heart. Imagine painting a picket fence. You wouldn’t paint the front and the back and leave the insides of the wood panels open to the elements, right? In this way, neglecting to floss leaves those surfaces exposed to cavities and tooth decay. Don’t be fooled by mouthwash commercials that suggest mouthwash can replace flossing. Just as rinsing with a liquid will never replace the abrasive act of brushing, you can’t remove sticky plaque from in between your teeth unless you physically scrape it off with floss.

Brushing too hard
Sometimes, there can be too much of a good thing! Brushing your teeth too hard can cause enamel erosion rather than a healthier mouth. The American Dental Association suggests brushing your teeth gently and in wide strokes to clean your teeth, no need to scrub. If you find that the temptation to brush hard is too much for you, invest in a soft-bristled toothbrush, which has thinner, more flexible bristles so it’s less abrasive without sacrificing hygiene.

Not seeing your dentist every six months
Seeing your dentist regularly is critical to maintaining good health, keeping your teeth healthy and white, preventing disease, and avoiding costly and painful treatments down the road. Do you drink coffee, tea, or smoke? At a teeth cleaning, your hygienist can remove staining to your teeth from these activities. Seeing your dentist regularly will allow for early detection of conditions such as gum disease and oral cancer. Even if you floss and brush regularly, there are some spots you’re going to miss, and regular teeth cleanings can make sure that this tartar gets removed and doesn’t cause cavities and tooth decay. Calculus forms on the teeth over time, whether or not you brush and floss, and regular teeth cleanings can remove it.

Ignoring the blood when you floss or brush
If you bleed when you floss or brush, you’re one of the 75 percent of people in the United States who have at one-point experienced gum disease. Don’t let the blood in your sink scare you away: all it means is that your gums are a bit angry because plaque has built up. The best thing you can do is floss and brush twice per day until it goes away. In very rare cases, bleeding gums can indicate a more serious condition, such as immune suppression or nutritional deficiencies. See your dentist or doctor if bleeding persists despite brushing and flossing.

Chewing tobacco
Smokeless tobacco causes bad breath, staining of the teeth, buildup of plaque and tartar, and dramatically increases your risk of oral cancer. Contrary to popular belief, smokeless tobacco is not safer than smoking cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco is also a leading cause of gum recession, which is when gum tissue pulls away from the teeth, exposing more of the tooth and leaving it more sensitive to hot and cold and painful to eat and drink.

Not wearing a night guard
Wearing a night guard can help to relax your jaw while you sleep and minimize the effects of bruxism or grinding. Most people grind their teeth to some degree while they sleep, and the scariest part is, it’s difficult to know if you’re doing it since you’re asleep when it happens! Grinding results in jaw pain and a flattening of the teeth until they’re all one length. Wearing away your teeth like this can also make them sensitive. You spend one third of your life sleeping, why not protect your teeth during that time?

Do you have any questions about bad dental habits? Call Westermeier Martin Dental Care to schedule an appointment with your dentist 716-508-4547.