Dental hygiene tends to miss out on the New Year’s resolution health-wave that comes at the beginning of every new tour around the sun, and we at Heroes Dental think that ought to change.

Whether it’s your own dental health or your child’s, your San Juan family dentist knows what dental habits you should keep and which need to change. This 2020, make good dental hygiene a priority by dropping some bad habits that can harm your teeth and gums — and, by extension, your health over all!

1. Nail Biting

Nail-biting is one of the secret menaces to dental health. This habit is harmful not only to your nails themselves but also to your teeth and jaw. Nail-biting can lead to chipped teeth and can place your jaw in a protruding position for quite some time, ultimately leading to conditions associated with jaw dysfunction.

If you are a habitual nail biter, there are steps you can take to cut back. Bitter tasting nail polish and stress reduction can help you kick the habit by making it less appealing and less necessary, respectively.

2. Teeth Grinding and Clenching

Teeth grinding and clenching are both common habits that can lead to dental damage. Your teeth can crack, chip, and weaken due to this behavior. It can also lead to muscle tenderness and joint pain, making simple tasks like opening your mouth and chewing painful and tiring.

Stress relief and relaxation can help you drop this habit. In fact, just being more aware of the habit is a good first step. If you struggle with nighttime teeth grinding, consider talking to your dentist about using a mouthguard. A nice bonus of this last option is that it can also help you get better sleep!

3. Chewing Ice Cubes

According to the Mayo Clinic, ice chewing can be a sign of nutritional deficiencies or mental health issues like anxiety. Pica is a disorder in which sufferers will chew on or eat substances without any nutritional value; this can include relatively common habits like ice chewing but also covers eating or chewing on clay, paper, soil, etc.

While chewing ice may not cause as much harm to your body as eating clay, which can be toxic, it can seriously damage your teeth. Chewing ice can cause your tooth or filling to break, which can be costly to repair. 

If this is a habit you struggle with, consider drinking cold beverages without ice or with a straw to remove the temptation. Chewing ice may feel satisfying, but you’re risking lasting and expensive damage to your teeth. 

4. Constant Snacking and Bad Diets

While we generally separate the way we think about eating during the day into meals like breakfast, lunch, and dinner, some people prefer to graze throughout the day. Sadly, this second approach can increase the likelihood of developing cavities, especially if you’re eating sugary or starchy foods.

Food residue left over on your teeth can feed bacteria that produce cavity-causing acid. Eating balanced meals and low-fat and low-sugar snacks can help combat this risk. If you do eat some sugary treats, which most of us do, be sure to drink plenty of water afterward to wash any leftover sugary residue out of your mouth.

5. Not Drinking Enough Water

Another risk to your dental health lies in not drinking enough water. Hydration is important to every part of your physical health, and your mouth is no different. Dehydration and dry mouth make your teeth, gums, and tongue the perfect environment for bacteria growth.

Gingivitis–and its more dangerous counterpart, periodontal disease–both involve excess bacteria growth on and in between the gaps of your gums and teeth, which is made worse by a dry mouth. This plaque can also lead to tooth decay due to an excess of the acid eating away at the enamel. It also causes bad breath, which can affect many aspects of your health and social life.

Eight 8-ounce glasses of water are the number most doctors agree on, but certain medications can change the amount of water you need. If drinking enough water doesn’t help, consider chewing sugar-free gum, or talk to your doctor about synthetic saliva.

6. Using Your Teeth as Tools

Using your teeth as tools can be extremely risky. While you may think tearing things, holding things, or pulling things using your teeth may be no big deal, these habits can lead to chips, cracks, and even damage to your jaw.

You also put yourself at risk of swallowing an object unintentionally. Using your teeth as a tool may seem convenient, but your teeth aren’t meant to be used in this way and simply aren’t strong enough to withstand the damage.

If you find yourself frequently using your teeth as a tool, consider carrying a pocket knife with utility tools included so that you have an alternative on hand.

7. Skipping Out on Flossing

Flossing is an essential part of overall dental hygiene. You don’t need to floss after every meal; flossing once a day is enough to make sure you don’t have any food particles left in your teeth.

Skipping this step is another bad habit that makes you more at risk of developing gingivitis and periodontal disease, both of which have large implications for your overall health.

Getting in the habit of flossing can have a massive positive effect on your oral health, so making sure your kids get in the habit when they are young is very important.

8. Skipping Dental Visits

We know that going to the dentist can be a stressful thing for many people. A learned fear of dentists is one of the byproducts of skipping dental visits when we are young. Helping your child get used to the dentist and their tools when they’re young can have a large impact on their oral health later in life.

Regular checkups are also extremely important in their own right. The deep cleaning your dentist provides can help them spot any potential issues before they become serious problems. In essence, going to your regular dental checkups can save a lot of hassle, pain, and dental expenses in the long run.

9. Smoking and Vaping

Smoking and vaping are dangerous habits for a lot of reasons. The first thing we normally think of in terms of consequences derived from smoking or vaping is cancer, followed by various forms of cardiovascular and respiratory complications. However, using tobacco can also lead to bleeding gums and tooth discoloration, and this includes vaping.

In fact, vape juices can contain much higher levels of nicotine than cigarettes, making it even more likely that your teeth will be discolored. If you are struggling with a tobacco habit, talk to your doctor about the best ways to quit. In the meantime, drink plenty of water to combat dry mouth.

10. Harsh Brushing Habits

It may seem counterintuitive, but there are some brushing habits that can hurt your teeth, even if you’re brushing twice a day. Below you’ll find a list of risky brushing behaviors and how to correct them:

  • Keeping an old toothbrush – Using an old toothbrush can expose your teeth to bacteria. We recommend replacing your toothbrush every three months.
  • Not brushing long enough – Most people spend around 45 seconds brushing their teeth, but a full two minutes twice a day is the recommended standard in order to ensure your teeth are, and stay, clean. If you’re brushing too quickly, try setting a timer.
  • Brushing too hard – Brushing harder may seem like the best way to get off more food and bacteria, but brushing too much or too rough can damage your gums and enamel.
  • Brushing right after eating – Brushing right after eating may seem like the best way to keep your teeth clean, but brushing right after eating acidic foods can damage your teeth.
  • Improperly storing your toothbrush – Germs and bacteria can grow on toothbrushes that are stored improperly. Keep your toothbrush upright, and let it dry in the open air.
  • Using a brush with hard bristles – Being gentle with your teeth is important to keep them healthy. Consider switching to soft bristles to keep your teeth safe and undamaged.
  • Improper technique – Be sure to brush every part of your teeth, gums, and tongue. First, brush your gums gently, then the outer surfaces of your teeth and the inner surfaces. Next, spend time on the top/chewing surfaces of your teeth, and finally clean the inside of your front teeth by tilting your brush vertically and move the brush up and down several times.

Start 2020 Off the Right Way, With a Bright and Beautiful Smile!

Getting rid of bad habits is an excellent first step towards good oral health, but regular dental check-ups can be just as important. Scheduling a dental checkup with your San Juan pediatric dentists at Heroes Dental is your first step in adopting sound dental practices that can only improve your oral health.

Contact us to schedule an appointment with our pediatric dentist in the San Juan area today at (956) 223-4428.

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