It may seem obvious why constant snacking and nail biting are habits to focus on breaking in the New Year. Their connection to oral health, however, may not be so clear.
MouthHealthy.org, the American Dental Association’s consumer website, in January offers six goals for 2016 that involve breaking unhealthy habits — including nail biting and snacking — that can harm teeth.
Here are six habits to consider breaking this year and ways to help you quit them:
- Nail biting can “chip teeth and impact your jaw,” said Dr. Ruchi Sahota, an ADA member and dentist in California. “Placing your jaw for long periods of time in a protruding position can place pressure on it, which is associated with jaw dysfunction.” Using bitter-tasting nail polish, or finding ways to reduce stress, are ways to help reduce nail biting.
- Grazing on snacks all day, especially when the foods or drinks contain sugar, puts teeth at higher risk for cavities. “When you eat, cavity-causing bacteria feast on leftover food, producing an acid that attacks the outer shell of your teeth,” according to MouthHealthy.org. Ways to combat this effect include eating balanced, nutritious meals to feel fuller longer and eliminate the need to snack; consuming snacks with low sugar and fat; and washing down any sugary snacks with water.
- Chewing ice cubes can break tooth enamel and fillings. Instead, try using a straw or drinking chilled beverages minus the ice.
- Teeth are not a pair of scissors! The ADA suggests not using teeth to “stand in for a pair of scissors or hold things when your hands are full.” This can lead to cracked teeth, injured jaws or accidentally swallowing something.
- While the ADA suggests brushing for two minutes twice a day, brushing teeth too hard can damage them — and irritate gums. Use a soft toothbrush that features that ADA Seal of Acceptance and “don’t think ‘scrub.’ Think ‘massage,’" said Dr. Matthew Messina, ADA spokesman and a dentist in Ohio. “Save the hard toothbrush for cleaning the grout in the bathroom tile.”
- Grinding and clenching the teeth can cause them to chip or crack and can also lead to muscle tenderness or joint pain. “Relaxation exercises and staying aware make a difference,” said Dr. Messina. A nighttime mouthguard can also help. “You’ll have less tooth damage, less pain and muscle soreness and better sleep.”
For more information about oral health resolutions and other related topics, visit MouthHealthy.org.© American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.