Updated 17 January 2018

Are these habits ruining your teeth?

Are you a nail biter? Do you use your teeth when you don’t have a pair of scissors at hand? These are just some of the habits that could be ruining your teeth…

Our teeth are fairly versatile – they help us chew and speak. We only get two sets in our lifetime, so keep them healthy by following a healthy balanced diet and make sure you see your dentist regularly. Plus, don’t fall into these unhealthy habits that could damage your pearly whites:

Nail biting

biting nails, teeth, oral health

How often do your fingernails end up in your mouth? You should stop this habit immediately because it can chip teeth and affect your jaw. The position of your jaw when biting your nails places pressure on it, which can cause damage in the long run. 

The fix: Try using a nail polish that has a bitter taste to discourage the habit. If stress is causing the nail biting, find ways to reduce it, and keep your fingers busy. 

Read: Keep your smile healthy

All-day snacking

healthy food, snacks, water, oral health

Although health experts recommend eating more smaller meals throughout the day, snacking could put your teeth at risk for cavities, especially if it involves sugary drinks and food. After you’ve eaten, bacteria in your mouth feast on the leftover food and produce acid that affects your tooth enamel. 

The fix: Make sure your snacks are low in fat and sugar. If a sugar craving hits, wash it down with a big glass of water, which will also help to get rid of any leftover food in your mouth. 

Jaw clenching

dentist, teeth, oral health

This habit wears your teeth and gums down over time, causing muscle tenderness or pain. Bruxism poses a serious health risk – ask your dentist to check your teeth and gums for any signs of clenching, as this condition can go undetected. 

The fix: If you know you clench your teeth, relaxation exercises can help reduce any stress that may cause it. Your dentist can also give you a nighttime mouth guard – people often grind their teeth in their sleep and are unaware that they’re doing it. 

Read: Scuba diving can put pressure on your teeth

Over-enthusiastic brushing

brushing teeth, oral health, hygiene

Brushing your teeth is important when it comes to oral hygiene, but brushing too hard can have damaging results. If you tend to brush too aggressively, your teeth and gums can become damaged or irritated, wearing them down over time.

The fix: Use a softer brush and lighter hand. Take your time to clean your teeth thoroughly – think of massaging them rather than scrubbing them.

No scissors, no problem

oral health, scissors, teeth

Often we find ourselves struggling to open something, so we use our teeth. This is never a good idea – your teeth were made for chewing food. By putting something in your mouth that isn’t food, you risk cracking a tooth, injuring your jaw or accidentally swallowing something. 

The fix: Don’t do it. If you need a pair of scissors, find one.   

Read: Thumb sucking and dental problems

Stop smoking

smoking, cigarettes, oral health

Tobacco products (chewing tobacco, cigars and cigarettes) are bad for your health, and especially your teeth and gums. Tobacco puts you at risk of periodontal disease as it reduces blood flow to your gums. In addition, it causes bad breath, a higher rate of tooth decay, oral cancer and affects the appearance of your teeth. 

The fix: It’s fairly simple, stop smoking! Chat to your doctor about ways to quit – your teeth (and body) will thank you. 

Read more:

Do you chew comfortably?

A diet that prevents tooth decay

Oral health affects the whole body


Mouth Healthy
Cleveland Clinic


Ask the Expert

Oral health expert

Dr Imraan Hoosen qualified from the Medical University of South Africa in 1997. Together with his partner, Dr Hoosen now runs a group of dental practices around Johannesburg (Lesedi Private Hospital, Highlands North Medical Centre , Brenthurst Clinic, Parklane Clinic, Simmonds Street Medical and Dental Centre, Soni Medical Centre- Newclare). Dr Hoosen can be contacted on 011 933 4096.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules