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This article was first published 11 years ago

10 bad habits that harm your teeth

Last updated on: June 25, 2012 18:06 IST

Photographs: Courtesy Courtesy

Brushing hard, drinking wine, chewing ice -- here's everything you should avoid to preserve your pearly whites.

Oral hygiene is very important. In addition to a pretty smile, having strong and healthy teeth is important. Without proper brushing and flossing, your mouth can become a breeding ground for germs. But there are other bad habits as well that can damage your teeth.

You use your mouth for many different things other than chewing food. People often engage in certain habits involving the mouth that are detrimental to their oral health. You should be careful about bad things that you do with your teeth. Here are a few to avoid:

1. Using your teeth as tools

Many people use their teeth as tools to open bottles or a bag of chips, tear off plastic tape, rip a price tag off new clothing or even off wires.

Your teeth were not meant to be used like this. This can have a traumatic effect on them, causing the edge of a weakened tooth to chip off or even break. It can even cause malocclusion (poor jaw alignment) by wearing down your teeth unevenly.

Keep the real tools like scissors or wire-cutters handy and use them to do the work.

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2. Chewing ice

Photographs: Kanko from Nagasaki, Japan/Wikimedia Commons

Many people habitually chew on ice, especially the leftover ice after finishing a cold drink. The hardness and cold temperature of ice cubes can actually cause teeth to fracture. You could potentially chip off part of the enamel on a tooth or crack a filling. Sometimes the damage is severe enough to require a root canal.

Dentists recommend letting the ice melt in your mouth like candy instead of crushing it with your teeth.


3. Chewing hard objects

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Many people chew on pencils, pens and other hard objects. Your teeth were meant to chew food, not unnecessary non-edibles. Similar to chewing ice, chewing hard objects can fracture teeth, leading to unnecessary dental repairs.


4. Sucking on lemons

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If you do this on a regular basis, the citric acid in lemons can leach important minerals from your teeth and erode your teeth's outer surfaces, making them sensitive to cold food and drinks, and prone to chipping and cracking.

This doesn't mean that you should give up on all citrus fruits and their juices. Just make sure that you aren't holding them in your mouth for prolonged period of time.


5. Brushing too hard

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People usually think that by applying more pressure while brushing, or using a hard-bristled toothbrush makes teeth more shiny. This is a myth and should be avoided.

When you brush too vigorously or use a hard-bristled toothbrush, it can wear away the protective enamel on your teeth. It can also lead to receding gums and increased tooth sensitivity (to cold and touch). Choose a soft brush and use gentle circular strokes for best results.


6. Nail biting

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Nail biting is not only bad for your nails, it is also harmful to your teeth. It can cause broken or chipped front teeth, and gives an opportunity to germs and bacteria from underneath your nails to enter your mouth and cause cavities or gum infections.

Nail biting is often a subconscious habit that is an expression of some deeper anxiety that gets worse at times of stress.


7. Teeth grinding

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Chronic bruxism (aka teeth grinding) can lead to a variety of dental problems including excessive wear of the te#240 chipping, cracking, and fracturing of teeth and loosening of teeth. It can also cause pain in the jaw joints, headache and severe toothache.

This habit often occurs at night while asleep, on a subconscious level, usually in response to emotional stress. To limit the damage it can cause, your dentist may suggest you to wear a mouth guard when you go to bed.


8. Drinking white wine

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Many people choose white wine over red as the latter can stain the teeth. But actually, white wine can cause more permanent problems because of its high acidity. This acid wears away the tooth enamel, exposing the darker layer underneath (the dentin), giving teeth a yellowed appearance and leaving them much more vulnerable to stains from any coloured food or drinks consumed at the same time.

For protection, rinse your mouth with water after you drink and eat some cheese with your drink to balance out the wine's acidity.


9. Excessive soft drink consumption

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Excessive consumption of sweetened, carbonated soft drinks is emerging as one of the most significant dietary sources of tooth decay. It's not just the sugar in the soft drinks that is bad for your teeth. The acids included in the drink also contribute to the formation of cavities.

Sugar-free drinks are less harmful, but they can still cause problems as they too are acidic.


10. Sucking your thumb

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Thumb sucking, one of the most common habit among children, interferes with the positioning of the upper and lower front teeth, causing the upper teeth to splay out and the lower teeth to fold back into the mouth. These changes in the bite position eventually require orthodontic treatment.

These are just a few examples of damaging habits that have an impact on your mouth. Will power on your part may help you exchange harmful habits for good dental exhibits.