Bad Habits that Can Hurt Your Teeth

Habits have long fascinated scientists and philosophers. Aristotle, in Nicomachean Ethics, touts his belief that habits are within our control. Aristotle states,“for the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them, e.g., men become builders by building and lyre players by playing the lyre; so too we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.” In other words, if you want to achieve a new goal, you can do so by taking action. Neuroscience shows that while habits can be good or bad, both are within our cognitive control. This article will cover why you should consider improving your oral health, the bad habits that can hurt your teeth, and how you can break those bad habits and replace them with healthier ones.

Why should you improve your oral health?

Your oral health is linked to your overall health and well-being. Bad oral hygiene habits can lead to an excess of bacteria build-up in the mouth. Not only can this build-up of bacteria cause tooth decay and gum disease, but it can also cause a whole host of other illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, pneumonia, and endocarditis. The good news is you can improve your oral health and lessen your chances of correlated illnesses, by establishing good oral hygiene habits.

What bad habits can hurt teeth?

While it’s important to establish good habits, it’s equally as important to break the bad habits that are having a negative effect on your smile.


It probably comes as no surprise that smoking is bad for teeth, but did you know that smokers have twice the chance for gum disease compared to a non-smoker? Smoking weakens your body’s immune system, so not only does it make it more likely to obtain gum disease, but smoking also makes it more difficult for your gums to heal, even upon treatment. 

Vaping is also bad for your smile since it contains nicotine and can lead to recessed gums and dry mouth.

Poor brushing and flossing habits

Not brushing and flossing your teeth frequently enough can hurt teeth due to a backup of bacteria. The American Dental Association recommends brushing at least twice a day and cleaning between your teeth with floss once a day.

Brushing too hard 

Brushing your teeth too hard can irritate the gums, erode tooth enamel, and cause tooth sensitivity. To prevent brushing too hard, buy a toothbrush with soft bristles and make sure to replace it every three to four months.

Snacking all day

Who doesn’t love a good snack? Unfortunately, when you eat, cavity-forming bacteria settles in between your teeth and begins to produce acid. This acid can erode your enamel and lead to tooth decay. Instead of frequent snacking, focus on eating balanced, protein-rich meals and drink plenty of water. 

Teeth grinding / bruxism

Grinding your teeth, also known as bruxism, is terrible for your teeth. Bruxism can wear down your teeth and make them susceptible to decay. Ask your orthodontist to create a custom-fit mouth guard to wear at night. 

How can I break my bad habits that hurt my teeth?

Going back to Aristotle, the first step in breaking bad habits that can hurt your teeth is deciding you want to improve your oral health. “Habits play an important role in our health,” says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse. Pleasure-based habits are the toughest to break because enjoyable behaviors cause your brain to release dopamine. An example of a pleasure-based habit that can negatively affect your teeth is snacking all day. Snacks are delicious and eating to relieve stress, boredom, or to get a sugar rush releases dopamine in our brain. 

A couple of tips to break your bad habits and create new healthy ones include:

Brush your teeth after every meal

When you brush your teeth after every meal, you are not only removing the harmful bacteria and food particles that can lead to gum disease and tooth decay, but you are also removing the taste of food from your mouth so you will be less likely to snack between meals. 

Sometimes we crave more snacks because of the lingering taste. Brushing your teeth with minty toothpaste can also discourage snacking because many foods and drinks will taste terrible in combination with the minty flavor. This makes brushing a win-win for healthy teeth!

Replace bad habits with healthier routines

Think about the bad habits you have that hurt your teeth. Now think about why you continue to do those actions when you know that they are bad for you? Research shows that approximately 70 percent of smokers say they would like to quit, demonstrating that many of us want to stop the habits we know are bad for us, we just don’t know how. 

One tip for discontinuing a habit that hurts your teeth is to implement a new habit that rewards the healthier behavior. For example, replace smoking with going for a walk. Walking can improve your blood flow, increase oxygen absorption, and keep gum tissue healthy. Walking also can help you maintain a healthy weight, improve cardiovascular fitness, and increase energy levels. 

These long-term benefits reward healthy behavior, but there are also many short-term rewards as well. Walk to your local grocery or convenience store and pick up a magazine you’ve been wanting to read. Walk your dog to spend some quality time with them. 

If you have been thinking about your dental health and would like to take the next step in learning how orthodontic treatment can help you, contact Smith Orthodontics for your free consultation.