Orthodontic patients already know it’s important to maintain good oral hygiene. Daily brushing and flossing are a must when you’re wearing braces.
No matter how thoroughly you brush and floss, however, certain bad habits can undermine your oral care routine. To make the most of your smile, here are five bad habits to avoid.
1. Sugary Drinks
Pop… soda… coke: Whatever you call it, sugary carbonated beverages are bad news for your smile. Soda consumption is a major contributor to tooth decay. In a 2013 study , researchers found that even diet soda can cause enamel erosion similar to that caused by methamphetamine abuse. Because sodas have extremely high acid levels, they can quickly eat away at tooth enamel – something that can’t be replaced.
However, sodas aren’t the only culprit when it comes to tooth decay. Other sugary drinks, such as fruit juices, contain acids that can damage teeth. Whether you’re currently wearing braces, or you have already completed your treatment, water is the best way to quench your thirst.
If you must drink sodas or juices, drink in moderation. Limit your consumption to one soda a day if possible. You can also rinse your mouth with water immediately after finishing your drink, as this has been shown to lower the risk of sugar and acid damaging tooth enamel.
2. Chewing Ice
It’s a common habit, and people who chew ice tend to do it so frequently, they don’t always realize it. Chomping on ice might be satisfying, but it can do a number on your smile.
When you chew ice, you use the teeth – and especially the molars – to exact a tremendous amount of force. Done repetitively, this can cause tiny cracks to form in the tooth’s enamel. Over time, tiny cracks can become big cracks that allow food and bacteria to settle within the tooth. This can lead to decay, cavities, and a cascade of other problems. For those who wear braces, chewing ice can also break wires and snap brackets. Ice chewing is also problematic for patients undergoing Invisalign treatment, as the unnatural and repetitive forces placed on the teeth can interfere with and even prolong treatment.
3. Using Your Teeth as a Tool
Everyone has done it: You need to open a stubborn package or other item. You glance around (maybe a little guiltily), then use your teeth to yank the package open.
The problem is that your teeth aren’t designed to be used as a can opener, Lego® separator, or any other tool you might find on a Swiss Army knife. You get just one set of adult teeth – take care of them by investing in a good can opener and a sharp pair of scissors.
4. Biting Your Fingernails
Biting your nails can lead to chips and cracks, but it can also introduce harmful bacteria into your mouth. You touch a lot of surfaces throughout the day: door handles, desktops, gas pumps, public toilets. No matter how carefully you wash your hands, chances are you still harbor bacteria under your nails. Chewing or biting your nails can easily transfer this bacteria from your nail bed to your mouth, leading to infection.
5. Eating Hard Candy
Suckers and hard candies are definitely on the no-no list for braces wearers. For most people, the temptation to bite into hard candy and suckers is too great to resist.
Even if you’re not wearing braces, hard candy and suckers can cause chips and cracks in your teeth. Chewy and sticky candies, such as taffy and jolly ranchers, can even damage crowns and fillings.
Avoid Bad Habits for a Healthy Smile
We want all of our patients to enjoy a happy, healthy smile for a lifetime. Other bad habits to avoid include not wearing a mouth guard (to protect against clenching and grinding), skipping dental exams, and eating foods that can damage wires and brackets.
The good news is that avoiding bad habits, as well as taking good care of your teeth, can speed up your orthodontic treatment – a powerful incentive for anyone!
Interested in learning more about your orthodontic treatment options? We offer a wide range of solutions to make the most of your smile. Call us today to discuss Invisalign®, clear brackets, and other orthodontic options. We treat patients in La Jolla, Santa Fe, San Diego, and the surrounding communities.