Culture & Lifestyle / Habits That Can Harm Your Teeth

Habits That Can Harm Your Teeth

Culture & Lifestyle Jan 13, 2015

Bad Oral Habits You Need To Be Aware Of  

Oral health has a direct effect on your well-being. Poor oral health can lead or contribute to heart disease. This is why I always recommend patients see their dentist regularly. Poor oral health can be due to misaligned teeth, poor oral hygiene, broken teeth or gum disease. When it comes to the South Asian community, well, we all know the laddos, burfis and gulab jamuns don't help. 

Below I've outlined some habits that you should watch out for that could wreck your teeth.

Drinking soda

Soda is made up of sugars and acids, and this combination is bad for your teeth. But "sugar-free" kinds are also harmful. According to the American Heart Association, regular soda and diet soda can lead to tooth decay and cavities too. Consuming one or more soda products daily can bathe your teeth in decay-causing fluid, eroding your enamel. This can lead to tooth sensitivity.

A healthier alternative to soda is water. Not only is water a great thirst quencher, but you can also rinse your mouth with water after drinking acidic beverages to minimize the erosion of your enamel. And if you must drink acidic beverages, try using a straw to avoid contact with your teeth.

Chewing on ice, pens, pencils and bobby pins

Chewing ice might seem to be harmless, but it can cause permanent damage to our teeth with small cracks. Robert Sorin, DDS clinical instructor and the Department of Dentistry and Oral Surgery at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, says, "Chewing on ice, pens, pencils, and bobby pins can cause wear and tear on the tooth and enamel surfaces covering the tooth. If your teeth are worn or chipped already, the ice can crack and damage the tooth structure." These cracks can expand over time, causing a tooth to fracture. So, the next time you have a cold beverage with ice, resist the urge to chew.

Grinding teeth

Grinding or clenching teeth is called "bruxism" and it can develop at any age — not just in childhood. Most people are actually unaware of this unless it's audible and it disturbs their partners, or if they wake up with complaints of a headache or toothache.  

According to the American Dental Association, bruxism not only causes discomfort but can also loosen teeth, cause teeth sensitivity and damage dental restorations. Wearing a custom-made mouth guard at night may help prevent damage and reduce pressure on teeth.  

Nail biting

Biting your nails is bad for your teeth. It endangers your health by introducing germs and viruses into your system. Biting your nails can also cause your teeth to move out of place and, in rare instances, the tooth enamel can splinter. It's a good idea to clip your nails regularly with a nail cutter or get a professional manicure. Keeping them out of your mouth will significantly reduce the amount of toxins that enter your system this way. 

Tongue piercings

They might be trendy but they’re certainly not tooth-friendly. People with piercings can damage their teeth by biting on the metal studs, which can cause the teeth to break and thin out the enamel. The gums can also recede due to the stud rubbing against them, resulting in gum disease. 

Your mouth harbors lots of bacteria, and introducing a foreign body such a a piercing can cause food particles to get stuck in there. This leads to bad breath, and it also puts you at a higher risk of infection.

If you do have piercings, take good care of your oral hygiene by rinsing your mouth with mouthwash after every meal. See your dentist on a regular basis to ensure good oral health.


Smoking cigarettes

Tobacco use in any form — cigarettes, pipes, and smokeless (spit) tobacco — raises your risk of gum disease. Betel quid with tobacco (gutka) is popular with South Asians. Betel quid is a combination of betel leaf, areca nut, and slaked lime. 
Tobacco wreaks havoc on your teeth by not only staining them but also causing them to fall out as a result of gum disease. Smoking weakens your body's immune system, which means it makes it more difficult to fight infections and it takes longer for your body to heal. 

Smoking causes bad breath, also known as "halitosis." The dry mouth that results from smoking is a breeding ground for bacteria, which results in "smoker's breath."

The greatest risk of cigarette smoking is oral cancer and lung cancer. Second-hand smoke is also bad for your health — as much as first-hand smoking. Hookahs, which are quite popular in the South Asian community, can also cause the same harm as cigarette smoking.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the following to prevent gum disease.  

  • Brush your teeth twice a day.
  • Floss often to remove plaque.
  • See a dentist regularly for checkups and professional cleanings.
  • Don't smoke. If you smoke, quit.

These are just some of the most common habits that can damage your teeth. NYC cosmetic dentist  Dr. Albert Ambriz, DDS, MDT, and founder of Ambriz Aesthetic Design, recommends quitting some of these habits or avoiding them altogether to improve the longevity of your teeth. He also says the best treatment for broken or chipped teeth is prevention — whether you're wearing a night guard if you grind your teeth or changing your bad habits. But for those people who have already broken or chipped their teeth, not to worry. Dr. Ambriz has come up with a technique that can restore your teeth to their original appearance.

Making regular dental visits is a must for your overall dental health and well-being.

Feature image:

Limca image:
Piercing image:
Dental image:

Dr. Shireen Fernandez, M.D.

Dr. Shireen Fernandez, M.D.


Physician & Founder of Dr. Shireen's Wellness Living, Dr. Shireen's Health Wellness Program™ redefines the concept of wellness through prevention, nutrition and non-invasive natural remedies. She’s also the founder & CEO of


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