10 Habits That Cause Dental Problems

We’ve all been there, and done things we shouldn’t do with our teeth. Here are our top 10 habits that can cause dental problems and what you can do about them, in no particular order…

  1. Crunching.
  2. Drinking too many sugary drinks.
  3. Using your teeth as a tool.
  4. Teeth grinding.
  5. Over brushing.
  6. Using a hard toothbrush.
  7. Smoking.
  8. Thumbsucking.
  9. Biting nails.
  10. Holding things in your mouth.

1.  Crunching

Crunching on ice cubes

Did you know that the brittleness and coldness of large ice cubes can cause micro fractures in your teeth and damage them? If you have the urge to bite down hard and crunch on ice cubes when you’ve finished your drink, then we recommend you crush the ice first to avoid biting down on large cubes. Whilst crushed ice is better than crunching large cubes, it’s still not recommended to eat ice due to its coldness.

Popcorn kernels

We’ve all done it, we’ve been enjoying a bag of our favourite popcorn and bitten down hard on a kernel. The problem with this is that you are not prepared for the extreme biting force that your jaw can exert on individual teeth. The biting force can actually be around 5,600lb per square inch! That’s an amazing amount of force when you aren’t expecting it. Always sort through popcorn before putting it into your mouth.

2.  Drinking too many sugary drinks

You’ve heard it before, cutting down on sugar is vital to reducing the levels of tooth decay and problems caused by teeth. Sugar feeds the acid-excreting bacteria which live in your mouth. Put simply, the more sugar you eat, the more bacteria feed and the more acid they excrete. The more acid excreted onto your teeth, the more your teeth will rot!

3.  Using your teeth as a tool

Tearing open packets of crisps, removing bottle tops and generally using your teeth as a tool will almost inevitably result in some form of damage to your teeth.

Scissors are meant to be used to cut things, if you try to use the incisors of your teeth, which are meant for biting into relatively soft items such as fruit, then you run the risk of chipping the edges of your teeth. As the edges chip, they can wear away at an increased rate.

4.  Teeth grinding

Grinding your teeth either during the day or at night will also damage your teeth. If you grind your teeth they will wear away. As this happens, the enamel, the hard outer layer of your teeth, can wear away exposing the softer dentine underneath. The softer dentine will then wear at an increased rate resulting in even more tooth structure loss.

Eventually, the tooth could be worn down so much that it serves no useful purpose in staying in the mouth and may need to be extracted.

Understanding the causes of teeth grinding is important and wearing an oral night guard may help.

5.  Overbrushing

Yes, it is actually possible to over-brush your teeth. This is particularly prevalent down towards the gum margin where the enamel is thinner. If you over-brush your teeth where the teeth join the gums then you can expose the softer dentine underneath. As the softer dentine becomes more exposed the teeth wear more and can also become more sensitive.

Overbrushing is often caused by pressing too hard, a good idea is to use a modern electric toothbrush with a pressure sensor, this will let you know if you are pressing too hard and can help to reduce the amount of wear caused by overbrushing.

If you have been over-brushing for many years then you may find your teeth have become sensitive and worn away towards the gum margin, if this is the case speak to your dentist as dental bonding can often be used to rebuild the tooth in these areas.

6.  Using a hard toothbrush

Using a hard toothbrush can also wear away the teeth, very much like over-brushing. For most people, using a brush with relatively soft bristles and a small head will be the best option, enabling you to reach as many areas as possible.

In some cases, if you have had excessive wear in the past, then an extra soft toothbrush could be better.

7.   Smoking

Smoking damages your teeth by changing the pH level in your mouth and affecting the good bacteria. Your mouth is a fine balance, when you eat, the acidity level rises due to the acid excreted by the bacteria in your mouth, your saliva is then alkaline and balances out this acidity.

Because smoking inhibits the release of saliva, this pH balance is not addressed and your mouth maintains its acidity which can result in tooth decay.

8.  Thumb-sucking

Thumb-sucking can dramatically affect the look of your teeth. Think about it, orthodontic braces deliberately move teeth by applying pressure to them in a continuous direction, this orthodontic phenomenon is possible too.

Thumb-suckers will usually have a preferred angle to suck their thumb, this continually preferred angle puts pressure on the teeth and jaw and will eventually move them leading to a need for orthodontics later in life.

Thumb-sucking can be devastatingly damaging as it not only moves the teeth but can actually push the bone as well. This can mean that the upper jaw is enlarged and pushed forwards so much that using conventional orthodontics to move the teeth back again can be difficult to impossible.

If your child sucks their thumb, an orthodontic dummy is generally a preferred option as this can be controlled a little easier.

9.  Biting nails

Apart from the damage you can do to your nails, biting them also has a detrimental effect on your teeth. As you bite down on your nail you can chip the very tip of your teeth which are not designed to cut through such hard materials.

As well as damaging the tips of your teeth, bizarrely you can also damage the neck of your tooth where it joins the gum. The biting force when the teeth meet on the incisal edge, such as when you bite your nails, can be transferred down the outer surface of your tooth.

This transference of the force can result in a weakening of the outside of the tooth near the gum, because this outer layer is weakened it is more susceptible to wear from brushing… particularly if you over brush as already mentioned.

10. Holding things in your mouth

Many people use their teeth and mouth as an additional limb, particularly with things like DIY and holding nails in their teeth. Again, your teeth are designed to bite through food and not hold hard items such as nails or pencils.

We recommend you avoid using your teeth in such a way if you wish to preserve your smile.


Your teeth are perfectly designed to help you eat and speak, whilst being the hardest substance in the human body, they are still susceptible to damage if they are abused.

You only get one set of teeth… remember to look after them. As London Dentists, we offer treatments to help keep your teeth healthy and reduce the impact of potential bad habits.