The Hemphill Orthodontics team has helped hundreds of children, teens, and adults in Celina find beautiful, straight smiles with braces and clear aligners, and we’ve sure handed out a lot of helpful advice on keeping smiles in shape. One of the most important pieces of wisdom that we just keep coming back to is simple: get a good dental hygiene routine going and stick to it! That includes brushing regularly, flossing effectively, and avoiding orthodontic bad habits that, really, everyone should break.
When an orthodontic patient doesn’t care for their teeth and gums properly, it can increase treatment times, put them at risk of tooth decay, and even affect the esthetics and function of their final results. Those in braces are particularly susceptible to cavities during treatment, so a solid brushing and flossing routine is essential, but this advice doesn’t just apply to our braces patients! It’s a good idea for everyone to evaluate their oral hygiene from time to time. You may take care of your oral health and see a dentist regularly, but what about bad habits that can affect your smile?
Let’s take a closer look at some oral habits to watch out for and how breaking them can give your smile a boost, whether you wear braces or not! Keep reading below to learn more.
Glow up your oral hygiene routine
The way that you think about your dental hygiene routine should go beyond remembering to quickly brush a couple of times each day! The state of your toothbrush is a perfect example. Many people think that firmer bristles are better at cleaning the teeth, but this isn’t true. Firm-bristled toothbrushes can actually damage your gums and may lead to sensitive teeth, especially for older adults. For extra comfort and better results, stick with a soft-bristled toothbrush instead, and be sure to use gentle strokes to clean the teeth and gums.
As far as brushing itself goes, we recommend the Rule of Two: brush with fluoridated toothpaste at least twice a day for at least two minutes each time. You should also try to floss every night before you go to bed to help remove food debris and plaque from between the teeth where your toothbrush can’t reach. This will reduce your chances of developing tooth decay. Be sure to replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months as well, or 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.
Crunching ice and chewing on other objects
Crunching on the leftover ice in your cup may seem like a harmless habit, and it’s certainly a common one. But the freezing temps and tough texture of the ice are enough to fracture your teeth! Chewing on ice can also cause microscopic cracks in the surface of the enamel, which can lead to several other dental issues over time. Ice isn’t the only one at fault here, though. Popcorn kernels, fruit pits, and other hard foodstuffs can also put extra stress on the teeth and occasionally lead to fractures, so just be thoughtful about what you’re biting down on.
Do you deal with boredom or the need for distraction by chewing on items like pencils, pen caps, or your fingernails? This is often done subconsciously, so you may not even be aware that you’re doing it. Over time, however, this kind of habit can chip away at your enamel and irritate the soft tissue inside the teeth. If you struggle with chewing habits, try occupying your mouth with sugarfree gum or something with a satisfying crunch, like carrots, celery, or apple slices. As a bonus, these healthy snacks are also excellent for your teeth, oral health, and your whole body, too!
Grinding your teeth
Tooth grinding, also known as 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, including interrupted sleep, chronic headaches, and many other issues. It can also wear down the enamel and flatten the cusps and ridges 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 dealing with tooth grinding. Many of these solutions will help prevent any further damage and also treat any damage that’s already present. This generally involves treating obvious underlying causes, like reducing stress, treating anxiety, and addressing any dental or orthodontic issues. Proactive treatment may be recommended as well, such as wearing a mouthguard overnight. In severe cases, some people even benefit from Botox injections in their jaw muscles, causing them to relax and preventing them from clenching their teeth together.
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
As orthodontic specialists, you’d be surprised at what we’ve seen teeth used for over the years! Tearing open bags, ripping tags off clothing, uncapping bottles—pretty much anything you could think of, we’ve probably witnessed or at least heard about. Many people do this without even thinking about it, but using your teeth as tools can be really rough on them! It only takes one bad move for a tooth to be traumatized, chipped, or even 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 small tools like scissors, nail clippers, and pliers in convenient places around the house so you won’t be tempted to do the dirty work with your mouth! Remember, minimizing unnecessary stress on your teeth will help keep them strong for years to come.
Beat bad habits and improve your oral health with Hemphill Orthodontics
As an experienced orthodontist, Dr. Hemphill is trained to diagnose and correct a multitude of orthodontic issues. Identifying any harmful oral habits is an important part of that process, too! That being said, you don’t have to be an orthodontic patient to benefit from breaking a bad habit if it’s hurting your smile.
If you’re in the Celina area and need some help breaking free from a destructive oral habit, our expert team is here to help! Get in touch today to schedule a FREE consultation with Dr. Hemphill and take the first step towards stronger teeth, a healthier smile, and lasting oral health.