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Do You Have These 5 Bad Dental Habits?

You practice good dental care: brushing your teeth, flossing fairly regularly, and seeing your dentist twice a year for checkups and cleanings. Good for you! But you’re probably also engaging in one or more bad habits that can undermine the good ones and compromise your dental health. Here‘s our list of five of the worst dental habits, why they're harmful, and what you can do to stop them.

Dental Care Problem 1: Crunching, Sucking, and Sipping

You slurp down an ice-cold soda or iced tea and then crunch, crunch, crunch the leftover ice. What's the harm? The brittleness and cold temperature of ice cubes can actually cause teeth to fracture. Or they can cause microscopic cracks in the surface of the enamel, which could lead to bigger dental problems over time. Crushed ice is less harmful than bigger cubes, but it still doesn't get the blessing of most dentists.

Right up there with ice cubes are popcorn kernels, which can also put undue stress on a tooth and cause it to fracture. And some people keep the pits of fruit such as peaches, apricots, and plums in their mouth to suck on and then crunch on.

Sipping sugary soda throughout the day is another bad habit, research suggests. The constant exposure to sweet and acidic beverages can foster tooth decay.

Be mindful of these practices when you eat or drink. Switch to crushed ice in drinks and when eating snacks eat something that’s healthier to chew, such as baby carrots. Sip soda through a straw to minimize soda exposure to your teeth. Be sure the straw is positioned toward the back of the mouth, not resting against your teeth.

Dental Care Problem 2: Using Teeth as Tools

Dentists report that patients rely on their teeth for a number of odd jobs: to tear open a bag of potato chips, uncap a bottle of nail polish, pull out a watch stem, straighten a bent fork tine, or rip a price tag off a piece of clothing. This can be hard on your teeth, traumatizing them or causing the edge of a weakened tooth to chip off or even fracture.

Think about what you’re putting in your mouth before you use your teeth as tools. And keep simple real tools such as a scissors and pliers handy to do the dirty work and let you maintain good dental health.

Dental Care Problem 3: Grinding Your Teeth

Whether you grind your teeth during the day, at night, or both day and night, it wears them down. Often, teeth grinding is a nervous habit, reflecting anxiety.

Your dentist may suggest wearing a mouth guard for teeth grinding at night. Custom models made by your dentist cost more than over-the-counter ones, but they generally fit better and work better too. Sometimes, it helps simply to be aware that you are grinding your teeth and find another way to disperse the nervous energy or deal with the anxiety.

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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