Here at Langford Orthodontics, your smile is our passion! We take a lot of pride in creating beautiful smiles for families throughout the Knoxville and Seymour areas, but that’s not all we do. Dr. Langford is also able to advise our patients on a range of topics related to oral health, including dental hygiene. Because orthodontic patients are more prone to problems with their teeth and gums during treatment, we want to do all we can to ensure they have healthy mouths from start to finish! 

We want everyone to enjoy good oral health, though, not just our patients. Dr. Langford’s advice also covers any bad habits that can undermine even the best dental hygiene routine. Some of these habits are so common that you could be engaging in them without realizing it, which is why it’s important to understand what they are and how they can harm your smile! With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the bad habits we see most often and how you can beat them.

How to Identify and Break Harmful Oral Habits

Insufficient brushing and flossing

When it comes to keeping your smile healthy, how you brush and floss is almost as important as how often you do it. But you’d be surprised how many people get it wrong! Whether you’re wearing braces, using clear aligners, or simply want a healthier smile, there are some simple steps you can take to get the most out of your dental hygiene routine. These basic guidelines are a good place to start!

  • Brush at least twice a day for two minutes each time.
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste.
  • Floss every night before bed to remove stubborn food particles and get rid of sticky plaque.
  • Add an antimicrobial or fluoride mouthwash to eliminate the bacteria that cause bad breath and gum disease.
  • Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months, or sooner if you’ve had a cold or any other illness.

Drinking sugary beverages 

Sipping on sweet beverages like soda and fruit juice every once in a while is no big deal. But if you frequently find yourself reaching for these drinks throughout the day, you’re asking for trouble with your smile! Constant exposure to the sugar they contain can increase the risk of developing tooth decay, while the acid can wear down the enamel. Over time, this may result in tooth sensitivity and cavities.

Once you’ve drained the cup, do you find yourself crunching on the leftover ice? This may seem like a harmless habit, but the texture and cold temperature of the cubes can damage your teeth. Chewing on ice can cause microscopic cracks in the surface of the enamel, which may lead to other dental issues.

Fortunately, these come with simple fixes! Try switching to crushed ice instead of cubes, for example, and drink soda or juices through a straw to minimize exposure to your teeth. For the best results, position the straw towards the back of your mouth instead of resting it against your teeth.

Grinding your teeth

Also known as bruxism, this describes any involuntary grinding of the teeth outside normal chewing, swallowing, or speaking movements. Tooth grinding is a relatively common habit with several possible causes, including:

  • stress and anxiety
  • medications
  • certain medical conditions
  • genetics
  • misalignment between the teeth and jaws
  • an abnormal bite
  • missing or crooked teeth

You may not even be aware of grinding your teeth, particularly if it’s something that happens when you’re sleeping. Whether you know if you’re doing it or not, bruxism can result in everything from interrupted sleep and headaches to pain in your jaw, face, or neck. It can also wear down the enamel of your teeth over time, exposing the soft dentin inside. This may eventually result in painful tooth sensitivity.  

There are many ways to break this particular habit. The first step is to identify and treat any underlying causes. Once these have been addressed, a dentist or orthodontist can begin correcting any existing damage. Dr. Langford may also recommend proactive treatment to help prevent any further impact. This can often be accomplished with something as simple as overnight mouthguards.

Sometimes just being mindful of this habit can help you break it, especially if it’s a stress response. The next time you feel yourself beginning to clench or grind your teeth, try positioning the tip of your tongue between your teeth. Over time, this will train the jaw muscles to relax. You can hold a warm washcloth against your cheek to produce a similar effect.

Using your teeth as tools

We’ve seen plenty of patients using their teeth in surprising ways over the years. This includes popping the cap off bottles, ripping tags off clothing, and opening up a bag of their favorite snacks! These may seem like time-savers in the moment, but using your teeth as tools can actually weaken them and make them more susceptible to chipping or fracture. This may lead to discomfort, pain, and increased sensitivity. Keep temptation to a minimum by placing simple tools like scissors, nail clippers, and pliers in convenient places so you can use them instead.

How to Identify and Break Harmful Oral Habits

Break bad oral habits with help from Langford Orthodontics

Dr. Langford spent years learning how to identify and treat a wide range of orthodontic issues, including harmful oral habits. If you have a bad habit you want to quit, he’ll be happy to help you get to the root of it. Get in touch today to schedule a FREE consultation and take the first step towards a stronger, healthier smile!

- Dr. Langford

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