As we take a look at what worked last year--and what didn’t--it’s almost second nature to establish resolutions that will set us up to be more successful at work, more present in our homes, and overall, healthier. We determine that this will be the year we finally eat right or exercise daily. We resolve to wake up earlier, be kinder to ourselves and others. But have you considered the value of resolving to take care of your teeth? Don’t bring bad habits into this new decade. Instead, set a goal to establish new habits that will keep your mouth healthy for years to come.
Bad Habit #1: Nail Biting
Biting your nails is not just a habit that releases nervous energy, it can have a lasting negative impact on your jaw. According to the ADA, biting your nails puts extra pressure on your jaw which can cause jaw dysfunction.
Resolution #1: Make Your Fingers Less Appealing
Avoid long term pain in your jaw and reduce your risk of chipping a tooth by putting this bad habit to rest. Make your fingernails less appealing by putting bitter-tasting nail polish on them. Practice other stress-reducing techniques like deep breathing, stretching, or walking so that you’re less inclined to bite your nails. If nail biting is related to anxiety or is triggered by a certain scenario, grab a stress ball or fidget spinner to keep your fingers occupied and away from your mouth.
Bad Habit #2: Brushing Too Hard
You may have a habit of brushing your teeth at least twice a day--this is good! But it’s not good if you are brushing aggressively. Applying too much pressure or using a hard bristle toothbrush may be scrubbing away more than bacteria and debris, you may be scrubbing away enamel. Enamel is the hard, protective covering on your teeth that is necessary to promote oral health.
Resolution #2: Switch to a Soft Toothbrush
If you use a hard toothbrush look for one with softer bristles. Toothbrushes with the ADA seal of approval are the only ones you should be putting into your mouth. If your strong arm is the culprit behind this bad habit, resolve to be gentler as you brush. You can scrub the pots and pans but imagine massaging your teeth when you brush.
Bad Habit #3: Grinding Your Teeth
If you grind your teeth or clench your jaw, you risk chipping your teeth and are sure to experience jaw pain. If you have difficulty opening your mouth or feel tenderness in your jaw while you chew, chances are you grind your teeth. Many people grind their teeth while they sleep and therefore find this habit unavoidable. But you can still break this habit and protect your jaw.
Resolution #3: Get a Nightguard
If you grind your teeth at night, it’s time to get fitted for a nightguard. You can wear this at night to protect your teeth and reduce the soreness in your jaw. If you find yourself clenching your jaw during stressful times, this is the year to establish a new stress-reducing habit. Find a relaxation technique that works for you and practice this technique every time you realize you’re clenching your jaw tightly.
Bad Habit #4: Chewing Ice
You may look forward to a stop at your favorite drive-thru for a large drink with ice that begs to be chewed. Or, you may not even realize that after consuming a glass of iced tea you linger at the table, munching on ice. While chewing ice often feels satisfying, it threatens your enamel. Chewing ice is one of the most common ways to break a tooth or a filling.
Resolution #4: Use a Straw
You can remove the temptation to chew ice when you finish your beverage by drinking from a straw. In the South, it seems crazy to ask for a glass of water without ice, but if you want to reduce the risk of breaking a tooth, it’s time to learn to enjoy a chilled beverage with no ice.
Bad Habit #5: Snacking
Over the holidays, it’s easy to skip regular mealtimes and snack all day. However, grazing on foods that are high in sugar or fat increases your risk for cavities. Bacteria in your mouth has a feast with leftover food in your mouth. This creates an acid that settles in your teeth and begins eating away at your enamel.
Resolution #5: Eat a Balanced Meal
Resist the urge to snack by eating a well-balanced meal that leaves you feeling full, longer. If you do need a snack, look for something low in processed sugar or fat. Grab a piece of fresh fruit, a handful of almonds, or carrot sticks and hummus rather than a bag of chips or a candy bar. If you do eat something with high sugar content, follow it with a glass of water.
Bad Habit #6: Use Your Teeth as a Tool
You’re not the only one guilty of using your teeth to open a package. And while your teeth are strong, using them as a tool increases your risk of cracking a tooth or injuring your jaw. Your teeth are meant to help you chew food. To make sure they can accomplish this task, stop using them as an extra pair of hands or scissors.
Resolution #6: Find Help
Get to know your cubicle neighbor and ask for help when your hands are full, rather than relying on your teeth to hold onto something. Or, take a second to look for a pair of scissors. Your teeth will thank you.
If you’re ready to make this the year you break bad oral habits, let Anderson & Atkins, DDS help you be successful! If you struggle with grinding your teeth, schedule an appointment to be fitted for a nightguard. Or, start the year off right and set up an appointment for a teeth cleaning. Anderson & Atkins is dedicated to taking care of the dental needs of your whole family.