For more than 30 years, Williams & Hamman Orthodontics has been creating beautiful smiles for patients of all ages throughout Southaven, Olive Branch, and the surrounding communities. We’ve seen hundreds of children, teens, and adults in braces and clear aligners and we love providing helpful advice to our patients. One of the most important pieces of wisdom we have to offer is simple: start a dental hygiene routine and stick to it! That includes brushing regularly, flossing effectively, and avoiding bad habits that can damage your teeth.
If you don’t properly care for your teeth and gums during orthodontic treatment, it can put your progress towards a straighter smile on hold, meaning longer treatment times, and less-than-perfect final results. Those in braces are particularly susceptible to cavities during treatment, so a consistent brushing and flossing routine really is essential. But this advice doesn’t just apply to our braces patients! It’s a good idea for everyone to examine their oral hygiene from time to time. You may take care of your oral health and see a dentist regularly, but what about bad habits that might affect your smile?
Let’s take a closer look at some bad habits that can damage your teeth and how breaking them can give your smile a boost, whether you wear braces or not! Keep reading below to learn more.
Brush up on the basics of good oral hygiene
Whether or not you’re wearing braces your dental hygiene routine should be more than just a basic brush a couple of times each day! The condition of your toothbrush is just one example. Many people believe that firmer bristles are better at cleaning the teeth, but this isn’t true. Firm-bristled toothbrushes can actually irritate the gums and 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 and better results, stick with a soft-bristled toothbrush instead, using gentle, even strokes to clean your teeth and gums.
We recommend that you brush with fluoridated toothpaste at least twice a day for two minutes each time. You should also floss every night before you go to bed to remove any stubborn food debris and plaque. This will reduce your chances of developing tooth decay that causes cavities. Be sure to replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months 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.
Using your teeth as a tool
As orthodontic specialists, you’d be surprised at what we’ve seen teeth used for over the years! Tearing open bags, ripping tags off clothing, uncapping bottles—pretty much anything you could think of, we’ve probably witnessed or at least heard about it. Many people do this without even thinking about it, but using your teeth as tools can be really rough on them! It only takes one wrong move for a tooth to be traumatized, chipped, or even fractured.
With that in mind, try to be aware when you’re about to use your teeth for something that could cause harm. Keep simple tools like scissors, nail clippers, and pliers in convenient places around the house so you aren’t tempted to do the dirty work with your mouth! Remember, reducing the amount of unnecessary stress on your teeth will help keep them strong for years to come.
Chewing on ice and other objects
Crunching on the leftover ice in your cup may seem like a harmless habit, and it’s certainly a common one. However, the freezing temps and tough texture of the ice are enough 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 over time. Ice isn’t the only culprit here, though. Popcorn kernels and fruit pits can also put extra stress on the teeth and occasionally lead to fractures, so always be conscious to not bite down on anything too hard.
Many of our Williams & Hamman Orthodontics patients deal with boredom or the need for distraction by chewing on items like pencils, pen caps, or even their fingernails. This is often done subconsciously so you may not even notice that you’re doing it. 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, like chewing sugarless gum or snacking on something with a satisfying crunch, like carrots, celery, or apple slices. As a bonus, these are also excellent for your teeth, oral health, and your whole body, too!
Grinding your teeth
Tooth grinding, also known as bruxism, is the action of involuntarily grinding your teeth outside of normal chewing, swallowing, or speaking movements. There are several possible causes for this, including:
- 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, from interrupted sleep to chronic headaches and many issues in between. It can also wear down the enamel of your teeth when left untreated, eventually exposing the much softer dentin inside. This may result in tooth sensitivity, with symptoms ranging from mild to intense.
There are several options for dealing with tooth grinding here at Williams & Hamman Orthodontics. Many of these solutions will help prevent any further damage as well as treat any damage that has already occurred. In most cases this involves treating obvious underlying causes, like reducing stress, treating anxiety, and addressing any dental or orthodontic issues. Proactive treatment may be recommended as well, such as wearing a mouthguard overnight.
Sometimes it helps just to be aware that you’re grinding your teeth! If you feel yourself clenching or grinding your teeth, you can 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 your day.
Avoid bad habits with help from Williams & Hamman Orthodontics
As experienced orthodontists, Dr. Williams and Dr. Hamman are trained to diagnose and treat a multitude of orthodontic issues. Identifying any harmful oral habits is an important part of that process, too! That being said, you don’t have to be an orthodontic patient to benefit from breaking a bad habit if it’s hurting your smile.
If you’re in Southaven, Olive Branch, or the surrounding area and need some help breaking free from a destructive oral habit, our expert team is here to help! Get in touch today to schedule your free initial consultation with our doctors and take the first step towards stronger teeth, a healthier smile, and lasting oral health.