There are many opportunities for change and self-improvement throughout the course of our lifetimes. People set goals to better themselves in health and fitness, but dental health is usually left by the wayside. However, taking care of your teeth is vital for your overall health. Many of us are pretty consistent about maintaining good dental health habits—we brush our teeth, floss, and visit the dentist regularly—but we also tend to keep our bad habits with us over the years, too. Here are the top ten bad habits for your teeth and how you can break them in order to practice good dental care.

Chewing on Ice

After drinking a nice, cold beverage, it’s second-nature to crunch on the leftover ice cubes. This may seem like a harmless task. After all, ice is just water, so how can it be bad for your dental health? In reality, though, chewing on ice can be very damaging for your teeth. Each time you munch on ice, you run the risk of causing cracks and chips in your tooth enamel, which can be quite painful and require an emergency trip to the dentist.

Solution: Chill your beverage before you drink it so that you don’t need ice. If you have to put ice in your drink, drink from a straw so that you are not tempted to chew the ice. This dental care practice will protect your teeth from unnecessary damage.

Biting Your Nails

Biting your nails is a terrible habit for many reasons. Doctors warn against it because of all the germs you are putting in your mouth, but the harmful effects of nail biting extend to your dental health as well. For starters, biting your nails can break your teeth. Regular nail biting can also cause your teeth to move out of place because you are putting the same stress on the same teeth each time. This can shift your teeth to different positions and make your smile less attractive. Furthermore, biting your nails can have a lasting negative impact on your jaw. When you regularly bite your nails, you protrude your jaw forward for extended periods of time, which places unnatural pressure on it and can lead to jaw dysfunction and TMJ disorder.

Solution: There are a number of bitter nail polishes out there that you can use to deter yourself from putting your fingers in your mouth. You can also practice taking good care of your nails with the proper tools so that you are not tempted to fix them with your teeth. Additionally, a professional manicure will keep your nails looking nice, and investing your hard-earned money on one will make you more hesitant to mess it up with nail biting. Finally, enlist the help of your family and friends to point out when you are biting your nails and hold you accountable to stop. You may not experience all the harmful effects of nail biting right now, but this bad habit can drastically impact your dental health in the future. Take these steps to kick this habit now so that you can avoid the negative effects in the years to come.

Brushing Your Teeth Too Hard

Brushing your teeth is a great dental care habit and is necessary for maintaining good dental health. However, if you brush your teeth too hard, you could be doing more harm than good.  Aggressive brushing can wear down your tooth enamel, making your teeth more prone to damage, decay, and sensitivity. Brushing your teeth too hard can also irritate your gums and even cause them to recede, which can expose your roots and lead to sensitivity to cold, hot, sweet, or acidic foods and drinks.

Solution: Brush your teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Look for a toothbrush that has the ADA label, as this means the toothbrush bristles are soft enough to avoid damage but still firm enough to properly clean your teeth. When you are brushing, don’t scrub your teeth, but instead gently massage them with your toothbrush. If you keep this in mind, your dental care routine will improve and lead to better dental health.

Opening Packages with Your Teeth

Teeth are not tools! Your teeth are made for eating, not opening packages or bottles or carrying objects when your arms are full. Using your teeth for anything other than eating can lead to a number of tooth injuries, from cracked or chipped teeth to jaw damage. These injuries can be painful and cause lasting harm for your dental health. The convenience of using your teeth as tools is not worth the potential damage.

Solution: Take the extra second to find the proper tool for the task at hand or someone who is able to help you. Find scissors for that package, a bottle opener for that bottle, or someone with strong hands to help. Think about what you are putting into your mouth, and if it’s not food, don’t do it.

Snacking Constantly Throughout the Day

Constantly eating throughout the day increases your chances of cavities. This is especially true when your snacks are sugary or starchy. Decay-inducing bacteria love to feast on these foods, and constant snacking means there is food sticking around inside your mouth for a while throughout the day, allowing the bacteria to attack your dental health.

Solution: You should eat balanced meals so that you will feel full longer, reducing the need for snacking. When you do need to eat a snack, opt for foods that are low in sugar and fat to reduce your likelihood of cavities. It is also good practice to floss after you eat anything that could get stuck in your teeth. Then, rinse your mouth with water to get rid of any leftover food.

Clenching and Grinding Your Teeth

Stress can cause people to develop a habit of clenching and grinding their teeth, often without realizing it. This can lead to cracks or chips in your teeth, plus damage and pain for your jaw. These bad habits can also cause your teeth to wear down over time.

Solution: If you are grinding or clenching your teeth, the solution can be as simple as finding productive ways of handling stress, such as exercise, deep breathing, or counseling. Reducing your caffeine and alcohol intake can also help. At night, you can use a mouth guard to protect your teeth. Your general dentist can help you find the best solution for the cause of your teeth grinding and clenching.

Eating and Drinking Sugary Substances

Sugary foods and drinks can be detrimental to your dental health. Sugar promotes tooth decay, so large or concentrated amounts of it should be avoided. This includes candies, sugary snacks, sodas, sports drinks, and fruit juices. All of these are high in sugar and put you at a higher risk of cavities. In addition to sugar, sodas also contain acids that strip away your tooth enamel, making you even more susceptible to tooth decay.

Solution: The best dental care practice is to avoid sugary foods and drinks. However, if you do choose to indulge, make sure you eat them with meals so that the extra saliva produced during meal time will help wash away the sugars. Rinse your mouth with water after eating to make sure no sugars are sticking around your mouth.

Smoking or Chewing Tobacco

Tobacco products are very bad for your dental health. They stain your teeth, cause gum and periodontal disease, and can cause tooth decay and even loss of teeth. Tobacco products can also cause cancer in your mouth, tongue, and lips. Every area of your mouth is negatively affected by smoking and chewing tobacco.

Solution: To save your dental health, consult your doctor for help to create a plan to quit the use of tobacco products.

Playing Sports Without a Mouthguard

All it takes is one hit to the mouth during a game to cause major dental damage. You can chip, break, or even lose teeth when playing contact sports. These damages can be painful and difficult to fix.

Solution: If you want to practice good dental care, buy a mouthguard to wear while you play contact sports. Your general dentist can custom-fit you with a guard, or you can purchase a self-fitting guard at the store. This is an easy way to avoid unnecessary tooth damage and dental health problems.

Chewing on Pens and Pencils

Many people have the tendency to chew on their pencils or pens while concentrating, and often times they are not even aware they are doing so. However, we must again encourage you to avoid putting items in your mouth that are not food. Chewing on a writing utensil can put a lot of pressure on your teeth, causing them to shift, chip, or crack. It can also irritate the soft tissue inside of your teeth, leading to pain and sensitivity. Over time, your jaw can experience painful damage as well from biting down on something that won’t give.

Solution: When you feel the need to chew, reach for some sugarless gum instead. This is the better chewing option because it is softer and puts less pressure on your jaw and teeth. Just make sure you choose sugarless gum to avoid cavities!

General Dentist in Knoxville, TN

If you have previously fallen victim to some of the bad habits mentioned above, make the decision to leave those bad habits behind and start fresh with good dental care. This may seem like a daunting task, but if you just take it one small decision at a time, you can easily do it! The best place to start is by visiting your general dentist. Regular visits to the dentist are a great habit to get into, and it will make a huge positive impact on your dental health.

Here at University General Dentists in Knoxville, TN, we can help you establish healthy dental care habits. Whether you need restorative dental services or a routine cleaning, we offer all the services you need to maintain good dental health.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re currently unable to serve patients who are not experiencing an emergency. However, keep checking back and once we’re open and visiting with patients, we’d love to see you for an appointment at either our University of Tennessee Medical Center Office at or our West Knoxville Office.