A habit is something that a person does regularly. If you are like most people, many of your habits are good, but there may be a few that could stand to be broken. Here are a few oral habits that are best avoided.
Using Your Thumb as an Oral Soother
Self-soothing is an important skill for children to learn. However, when a child sucks his or her thumb as a soothing mechanism, the practice can become detrimental to the little one’s oral health.
For many children, thumb sucking begins early. Mothers-to-be often witness their offspring sucking a tiny thumb on ultrasound images. As cute as the habit may appear, it can lead to misaligned teeth and speech problems.
As a child sucks a thumb, a large amount of pressure is placed on the roof of the upper palate. In addition, the front teeth are pressed forward, encouraging a bucked formation. With regular practice, thumb sucking can cause significant changes in a child’s bite.
Still, like all bad habits, thumb sucking can be overcome. Although it’s important not to scold or punish a child who regularly engages in thumb sucking, there are things that you can do to discourage the practice. Here are a few of them:
- Coat the child’s thumb with a sour or bitter substance, such as vinegar.
- Place a glove over the child’s hands to prevent access to the thumb as the little one sleeps.
- Give the child a healthy alternative, such as sugarless gum, to occupy his or her little mouth.
- Offer praise whenever the youngster avoids thumb sucking.
Crushing Ice Between Your Teeth
Many people enjoy the sensation of crunching ice between their teeth. However, ice is an extremely hard substance. As a result, crushing it requires a large amount of bite pressure and can lead to chipped or cracked teeth.
Even if the teeth do not sustain obvious damage from ice crushing, the tooth enamel may be eroded by the practice. As a result, dental sensitivity may increase, and the teeth may become more susceptible to damage from oral acids.
It’s usually easier to break an unhealthy habit by exchanging it for a healthier pastime. Instead of crunching ice, consider chewing a piece of sugarless gum. The gum can help keep your teeth clean, freshen your breath, and encourage saliva production.
Grinding Your Teeth at Night
Bruxism is the habit of grinding your teeth at night. It is a relatively common condition, but it is sometimes difficult to avoid because it often occurs while you sleep. Still, there are factors that can increase the incidence of bruxism, such as caffeine consumption and stress.
If you drink coffee, coke, or other caffeinated beverages regularly, it’s best to exchange these for healthier alternatives, such as water. Water can help keep your mouth hydrated as it washes away leftover debris from your meals and snacks. In addition, if the water is fluoridated, it may even help your teeth better resist damage from bacterial acids.
Also, to minimize the damage from bruxism, it is best to use a mouth guard nightly. The guard absorbs the damaging pressure from the grinding to keep your teeth healthy. A custom night guard can ensure that you remain comfortable as you protect your teeth.
Biting Your Fingernails
Biting your nails can cause dental damage. In addition, the practice can push bacteria up into the spaces between your gums and your teeth.
Even if you wash your hands regularly, bacteria may still be present beneath your nails. Pressing these microbes into the soft tissues of your mouth can result in an oral infection. Additionally, since fingernails are relatively hard, they can increase the likelihood of cracking or chipping a tooth.
If you regularly bite your nails, consider using an over-the-counter nail-biting remedy that includes a bitter tasting substance. The product is painted onto the nails to discourage placing the fingernails in your mouth.
Another way to discourage nail biting is to have a professional manicure. Once your nails are beautifully polished and shaped, you become more aware of them and are less likely to nail-bite.
If you are concerned about a negative oral habit and would like to have your teeth assessed, contact our office to schedule an appointment.