6 Habits That Harm Your Teeth (And How to Break Them)

 
Woman biting nails

Nail Biting

The habit: This nervous habit can chip teeth and impact your jaw. “Placing your jaw for long periods of time in a protruding position can place pressure on it, which is associated with jaw dysfunction,” says Dr. Ruchi Sahota.

The solution: Bitter-tasting nail polishes, stress reduction and setting small, realistic goals can help. If certain situations are triggers, hold something to keep your fingers busy.

 
Man brushing teeth

Brushing Too Hard

The habit: Brushing for two minutes twice a day is one of the best habits you can get into. Just make sure you’re not trying too hard. “Brushing with a hard toothbrush, or brushing too hard, can damage teeth and irritate gums,” says Dr. Matthew Messina.

The solution: Use a soft toothbrush with the ADA Seal of Acceptance at the proper pressure. “Don’t think ‘scrub.’  Think ‘massage,’" he says. “Save the hard toothbrush for cleaning the grout in the bathroom tile.”

 
Photo of young woman depicting jaw pain

Grinding and Clenching

The habit: “This can cause chipping or cracking of the teeth, as well as muscle tenderness or joint pain,” Dr. Messina says. “You might also feel like you can’t open your mouth wide or chew with pain.”

The solution: “Relaxation exercises and staying aware makes a difference,” he says. A nighttime mouthguard can also help. “You’ll have less tooth damage, less pain and muscle soreness and better sleep.”

 
Ice image for slideshow

Chewing Ice Cubes

The habit: “Tooth enamel is a crystal. Ice is a crystal. When you push two crystals against each other, one will break,” Dr. Messina says. “Most of the time it’s the ice, but sometimes the tooth or a filling will break.”

The solution: Drink chilled beverages without ice, or use a straw so you're not tempted. “The risk of chewing ice is greater than any pleasure that comes from chewing it,” he says. “Besides, ice is really cold!”

 
Woman eating a cookie

Constant Snacking

The habit: Grazing all day, especially on sugary foods and drinks, puts you at a higher risk for cavities. When you eat, cavity-causing bacteria feast leftover food, producing an acid that attacks the outer shell of your teeth.

The solution: Eat balanced meals to feel fuller, longer. If you need a snack, make sure it's low in fat and sugar. If you indulge in the occasional sugary treat, follow it with a big glass of water to wash away leftover food.

 
Scissors

Using Your Teeth As Tools

The habit: Your teeth were made for eating, not to stand in as a pair of scissors or hold things when your hands are full. When you do this, you put yourself at a higher risk of cracking your teeth, injuring your jaw or accidentally swallowing something you shouldn’t.

The solution: Stop and find something or someone to give you a hand. Your mouth will thank you.