5 Habits That are Damaging Your Teeth

sad cartoon of a decayed and damaged tooth

We all know that we should brush our teeth twice a day and floss at least once, but there are other habits we may not realize are harming our teeth. These habits are sometimes known as dental parafunction. In this blog, we will define dental parafunction and discuss 5 parafunctional habits that could be damaging your teeth without you even realizing it.

Definition of Dental Parafunction

Dental parafunction is the name for a range of activities or habits that use the teeth for something besides biting or chewing food. This can include grinding or clenching, chewing on ice, nail biting, using teeth as tools (for example to open packages), and other activities or habits which put abnormal stress on our mouths and jaws. Though many of us engage in some form of dental parafunction without realizing it or being aware of the damage it does, it’s important to take time to understand the issue so we can take care of our teeth and prevent long-term damage.

Parafunctional habits can lead to irreversible damage to your teeth, weakening them and causing complications with other aspects of your dental health. By ensuring that you practice adequate oral hygiene and avoid bad habits, you’re taking a step towards promoting better all-around health.

Parafunctional habits that damage teeth

Chewing ice

Chewing on ice can be a satisfying way to cool off on hot days, but it’s worth noting that this habit could have some unintended consequences. Not only is chomping on ice linked to dental issues such as broken or cracked teeth, but it may also cause damage to the enamel which can increase the risk of developing cavities.

Chewing ice can be a very dangerous habit, and it’s important to take steps to prevent it in order to protect our teeth. Here are some tips that can help reduce the temptation to chew on ice:

• Drink plenty of water: Staying hydrated is important for our overall health, and it can also help reduce cravings for ice.

• Eat crunchy foods: Try eating crunchy fruits and vegetables such as apples, carrots, or celery when you feel the urge to chew on ice.

• Use a straw: If you want something cold with your drink, try using a straw instead of sipping directly from the cup.

Brushing Too Hard

Another damaging habit is brushing the teeth too hard. Brushing our teeth too hard can be just as harmful as not brushing them enough. When we brush our teeth, we should use gentle circular strokes with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Taking a few extra moments to use proper brushing technique will help keep our pearly whites looking and feeling great! Brushing your teeth too vigorously can lead to a number of problems like receding gums, sensitivity, and even damage the protective enamel layer on our teeth. One way to test if you’re brushing too hard is by looking at your toothbrush. If the bristles are excessively frayed out, you may be using too much pressure.

To avoid brushing too hard, you can use a soft-bristled toothbrush, hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle against your gums and brush in circular motions, gently moving the brush over each tooth. You should also replace your toothbrush every three or four months to ensure the bristles remain effective.

Grinding or clenching teeth

Do you ever notice yourself clenching or grinding your teeth? This is known as bruxism and it is actually quite common. Surprisingly, this habit isn’t limited to just adults; children also tend to grind their teeth occasionally. Teeth clenching and grinding can arise from tense emotions such as stress, and it can also be a sign of an underlying medical condition, like sleep apnea.

Teeth grinding or clenching can cause significant damage to the teeth and jaw. When the teeth grind against each other, it leads to wear and tear of the enamel on the surface of the tooth, which can eventually weaken and break down enamel. This causes sensitivity and increases the risk of cavities and other dental issues.

To prevent teeth grinding, it’s important to address any underlying emotional or medical causes of the problem. If stress is an issue, there are some simple tips that can help reduce tension, such as exercise, relaxation techniques, yoga, and meditation. It may also be helpful to use a mouthguard at night to prevent grinding and clenching. A mouthguard acts as a cushion between the teeth so that there’s less friction when you clench or grind your teeth at night.

Nail biting

Many of us have been guilty of nail biting at some point in our lives- it’s an all too common habit that can be quite difficult to break. While nail biting is damaging to your nails, it can also have serious consequences for your oral health. When you bite your nails, you are increasing the risk of chipping or cracking your teeth. Biting your nails also puts a lot of pressure on the teeth and jaw, which can lead to misalignment or jaw pain.

To break your nail biting habit, it’s important to be aware of when you do it and find healthier ways to cope with stress or boredom. You can also try using a bitter-tasting nail polish on your nails to make them less appealing, or use a fidget toy to keep your hands busy.  Keeping your nails trimmed and hydrated can also help. Start small and keep at it – it’s possible to kick those pesky nail-biting habits!

Using teeth as tools

Many of us have used our teeth as tools at some point or another. Things like tearing open packages, holding things with our teeth, or using our teeth to open bottles are all potential habits that can damage our teeth, gums, and jaw.  When we use our teeth as tools, it can put tremendous pressure on the enamel of the tooth and lead to chips or fractures. It can also cause tooth sensitivity and increase your risk for cavities. Not to mention the risk of soft tissue or jaw joint damage.

Instead of relying on your chompers, try using traditional tools such as scissors, pliers, or even bottle openers. Keeping these tools handy will help decrease the urge to use your teeth. When it comes to a tasks like these, the saying “safety first” couldn’t be more appropriate!

In Conclusion

It’s important to take good care of your teeth and gums, as they can be easily damaged if we don’t practice proper oral hygiene or participate in parafunctional habits. We should avoid brushing too hard, grinding or clenching our teeth, nail biting, and using our teeth as tools. Taking the time to find healthier coping mechanisms for stress and boredom will help us break these habits in the long run. Additionally, it is always a good idea to keep traditional tools like scissors nearby so that you have an alternative when tempted with these bad habits. With just a few simple changes to your daily routine, you can ensure healthy smiles for years to come!


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