Over the years, Bigman Orthodontics has treated more than 12,000 patients, from young children to senior citizens. We’ve given out a lot of advice in that time on how to maintain a healthy smile, but one of the most important tips we have to offer is pretty simple: learn what good oral hygiene looks like and practice it consistently! That includes an effective brushing and flossing routine, but it also means noticing any bad habits to break whether you have braces or not.
It’s essential for orthodontic patients to pay close attention to their oral health. When a patient doesn’t take good care of their teeth and gums, it can affect the success of their treatment plan. We’ve seen dental issues stall treatment, increase the amount of time a patient spends in braces or clear aligners, and even impact the final results. But even if you’re not wearing braces or aligners, breaking bad habits can benefit your smile!
All of us can benefit from examining our dental hygiene from time to time. Recommendations can change and you may be missing something that could improve your oral health. Even if you see your dentist regularly and take great care of your mouth, there are certain habits that can affect the look and function of your teeth. Let’s take a closer look at some of the worst oral habits and see how breaking them will benefit your smile!
Inconsistent oral hygiene
When we talk about an oral hygiene routine, we don’t just mean a quick brush a couple of times a day – a healthy smile needs more than that! Take your toothbrush, for example. You might believe that firmer bristles are better at cleaning the teeth, but firm-bristled toothbrushes can actually irritate the gums. This may lead to sensitive teeth, especially for older adults. Our gums tend to recede as we age, exposing the roots of the teeth and increasing sensitivity. For extra comfort, use gentle strokes with a soft-bristled toothbrush instead.
As far as brushing itself goes, we recommend you brush with fluoridated toothpaste at least twice a day for two minutes each time, and floss every night before you go to bed. This removes any stubborn food debris and plaque, which will reduce your chances of developing cavities and 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 things
Lots of us find ourselves crunching on the leftover ice in our cups or gnawing on our nails when we’re bored. While this is a common habit that may seem harmless enough, it actually has the ability to damage the teeth. In fact, the freezing temps and tough texture of ice have the potential 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 given enough time. The same holds true for popcorn kernels, fruit pits, and anything else that puts undue stress on the teeth.
If you find yourself chewing on things like your fingernails, pencils, or pen caps, you may be doing it subconsciously. Over time, however, this kind of habit can chip away at your tooth enamel and irritate the soft tissue inside the teeth. If this is a problem for you, try giving your mouth something else to do! Chewing sugarless gum can help, and snacking on something healthy that has a satisfying crunch can be a good option, 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 for those who suffer from it. If you grind your teeth, you could experience interrupted sleep, chronic headaches, and a number of other issues. It can also wear down the enamel 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 possible treatments for tooth grinding, most of which will help prevent any further damage while also treating any existing damage. They generally involve treating the obvious underlying causes, like reducing stress, treating anxiety, and addressing any dental or orthodontic issues. Dr. Bigman may also recommend proactive treatment, such as wearing a mouthguard overnight.
Sometimes it helps to simply be aware that you’re grinding your teeth! If you feel yourself clenching or grinding your teeth, 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 the day before going to sleep.
Beat bad oral habits with Bigman Orthodontics
Dr. Sandy Bigman is a skilled orthodontist with more than 25 years of experience in diagnosing a wide range of orthodontic issues and improving smiles. Identifying harmful oral habits is a part of that process, too, but you don’t have to be an orthodontic patient to benefit from eliminating harmful habits that could damage your smile.
If you’re in San Ramon or the surrounding areas and need help breaking free from a bad oral habit, we’re here to help! Get in touch today to schedule a FREE consultation with Dr. Bigman and take the first step towards stronger teeth and a healthier smile.