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Bad Habits That Can Harm Your Smile

A number of us have developed habits that can have a negative effect on our oral health.  Learn about smile-damaging habits and how to break them.

You could be destroying your smile without even knowing it.  It's true: many of us have a number of habits that could be harming our teeth.  Read on to learn about some of these habits, then do your best to break them - before your smile suffers the consequences.

Thumb Sucking
It's not uncommon for babies and small children to suck their thumbs: in fact, this may help newborns strengthen the oral muscles they need to feed.  However, if a child sucks his thumb after his permanent teeth begin to surface (usually at about 5 years of age), permanent damage may be done.  Thumb sucking could lead to teeth that are misaligned, which may cause cosmetic issues as well as problems with chewing and breathing.  If your child is too old to be sucking his thumb, try working with your pediatrician to develop an effective system to help him quit this habit.

Brushing Too Hard
Everybody knows that regularly brushing their teeth is an essential part of a good oral hygiene routine.  It's good to be thorough, but brushing too hard can actually do more harm than good.  Excessive or high-pressure brushing can irritate the gums and erode the enamel, potentially leading to increased sensitivity and even cavities.  The solution?  Try to be a bit gentler on your teeth when you brush, and look for a soft-bristled toothbrush approved by the ADA (American Dental Association).

Tooth Grinding and Jaw Clenching
Many of us clench our jaws unconsciously and grind our teeth while we sleep.  This can cause tooth fracture and may also damage dental work.  If you clench, try to become more aware of when you are doing this so that you can focus on relaxing your jaw muscles.  For grinding (also known as bruxism), talk to your dentist about being fitted for a mouth guard that will not only reduce grinding but will also protect your teeth.

Chewing on Ice
This is a common one, and another unconscious bad habit that may be difficult to break.  Ice is both hard and cold, and both of these qualities can do some serious damage to your teeth.  Try to become aware of when you are chewing on ice and stop as soon as you can.

Using Teeth as a Tool
We have all done this one: using teeth to snap off a clothing price tag, open a bag of chips, or unscrew a bottle top.  Try to remember that your teeth can be delicate and easily broken (and dental work, as well).  Use your teeth for chewing and smiling, and leave the other work to the tools.

Chewing on Pencils (Pens, Eyeglasses, etc.)
Another subconscious habit that may be difficult to break, chewing on pencils or simply holding them between the teeth can place a large amount of pressure on the teeth.  This can cause teeth to shift or crack, and can even break dental work. 

Biting your Nails
This is a habit you should break for a number of reasons.  Not only is it harmful to the hands and nails, but it looks tacky and can really do a number on your teeth.  Nail biting can cause the teeth to shift or break and can also splinter the tooth enamel.  If you do this, work to find another way to displace nervous energy.

Drinking Soda
This is a tough one for many of us!  Soda and carbonated beverages often have a high acid level, which leads to erosion of the enamel, the protective layer that covers our teeth.  This can lead to decay and cavities.  If you must drink soda, try using a straw so that most of the acid bypasses your teeth.

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