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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 and hygienist as often as advised for check-ups and cleaning. But you are probably also engaging in one or more bad habits that can undermine the good ones and compromise your dental health. Here is our list of five of the worst dental habits, why they are harmful and what you can do to stop them.

Dental care problem 1: Crunching, sucking and sipping

You finish an ice-cold drink 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. Some people also try to crack nuts such as walnuts or hazel nuts with their teeth, which can be equally hazardous to teeth.

Sipping sugary drinks 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. Swap to crushed ice in drinks, or better still, substitute something that’s healthier to chew, such as baby carrots. Sip drinks through a straw to minimise contact with your teeth. Make sure that 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 crisps, uncap a bottle of nail varnish, 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, traumatising them or causing the edge of a weakened tooth to chip off or even break.

Think about what you are putting in your mouth before you use your teeth as tools, and keep simple, real tools such as scissors and pliers handy to do the work so you can maintain good dental health.

Dental care problem 3: Grinding your teeth

Whether you grind your teeth during the day, at night, or both, it wears them down. Often teeth grinding (bruxism) 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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