Dental Tips |11 min read

Habits That Can Harm Your Teeth

We go through a lot on a daily basis both physically and emotionally… But what about your teeth? We put our teeth through a lot everyday and often we take our oral health for granted. Surprisingly, there are many habits that can harm your teeth. 

Use this as your guide to help you identify the little things you’re doing or may be doing every day that could be wreaking havoc on your teeth.  

Biting Your Nails

Biting your nails is a sure-fire way to ruin a good manicure, but did you know it can also harm your teeth?

Nail biting is very similar to the idea of biting pencils or chewing on hard ice. It can cause your enamel to crack or splinter. This habit may also cause your teeth to shift out of place requiring you get braces or a retainer in the future. We also want to note, your nails are filled with germs and bacteria so this habit can also cause infection or irritation to your gums. Plus, in more severe cases, nail biting can cause headaches and jaw pain due to jaw tension. 

Chewing your nails can be a tough habit to kick. Try cutting them short so there is not enough nail to grab with your teeth. Some people also coat their nails with a bad taste so that they are not urged to put them in their mouth. Others replace the nail biting with something else such as finding something to fiddle with like a fidget spinner, or occupying their mouth by chewing some sugar free gum. Biting your nails is one of the most common habits that can harm your teeth.

Your Teeth Are Not Tools

Ok, so we’ve all done it… the cap on our water bottle was a little too tight so we turned to our handy dandy teeth to do the work. Plenty of individuals use their teeth as a built-in pair of scissors or as a third hand, but note that your teeth should not be used as tools. They should not be used for anything other than chewing your food otherwise it can lead to some serious damage. 

Putting excessive pressure on your teeth can cause your gums to recede and can even cause your teeth to break or fracture. Using your teeth as convenience to open packaging or to hold smaller objects is frowned upon because of the damage it can do to your smile. 

Of course dentists are here to fix your teeth if they break. There are many devices and restoration techniques they can use if you damage your teeth utilizing them as tools. These alternatives are not as good as what your teeth are made of, that’s why it’s so important to try to keep your natural teeth as long as possible. Don’t get me wrong, dentists have a vast arsenal of ways they can help your broken smile, you’re just better off not getting hurt in the first place. Using your teeth as tools is one of the worst bad habits that can harm your teeth since it can cause severe damage. 


Using Whitening Strips or Whitening Toothpaste

We’ve all seen those commercials on how to get a whiter smile from a box or whitening toothpaste. While some of these solutions can help make your teeth whiter, relying on them heavily can actually cause damage to your teeth. Abusing and overusing over-the-counter teeth whitening treatments causes the dentin under your enamel to break down. 

Using those harsh or abrasive whitening treatments can actually wear away tooth enamel, which can never be restored, and can potentially expose the yellow dentin beneath. Over whitening and over treating your teeth with these products cause sensitivity and further damage which pretty much defeats the purpose of trying to whiten them in the first place. 

If you are trying to whiten your smile, try doing it appropriately by having them professionally whitened. 


Brushing Your Teeth Too Hard

Indications you may be brushing too hard is if your toothbrush becomes matted or frayed in three months or less. If you notice the bristles on your toothbrush are fanning out on the sides or if the bristles are flattened out, those are good indicators that you are brushing too hard. 

Aggressively brushing or using a hard bristled toothbrush can lead to gum recession and dental wear. Both of these issues can lead to tooth sensitivity.

You should treat your teeth gently! If you’re a vigorous brusher, try using two fingers to hold your brush to prevent you from scrubbing so hard. The ADA (American Dental Association) recommends you replace your toothbrush every 3 months and use soft-bristled brushes. 

Over Brushing

Did you know brushing your smile RIGHT after every meal is actually bad for your teeth? Maybe a friend or parent told you that you should brush your teeth after every meal, but that advice may actually be faulty. Scrubbing your teeth immediately right after you eat or drink may actually do more harm than good. 

It is recommended to wait at least 30 minutes to brush your teeth after you eat or drink acidic foods and beverages such as coffee, soda, or citrus fruits.  There is a moment where the acidic level in your mouth is higher and essentially your teeth are softer during this period. When you brush during this phase, you are actually injuring the enamel on your teeth. Waiting 30 minutes will allow your saliva to remineralize and buffer the enamel prior to the abrasive effects of brushing.

Carbonated Water

The popularity in sparkling water has increased since they are a healthier alternative to soda. Carbonated water can still be more damaging to your teeth than regular water.  

For those that have swapped out still water for sparkling water might have a higher chance of enamel loss. At a pH level of 5.5, your tooth enamel begins to break down or demineralize. These sparkling drinks have pH levels below that level.

Tooth erosion can be caused by repeated exposure to highly acidic substances like carbonated water. You should be very cautious of the ingredients in your sparkling beverages. Not only are the acidic levels higher, they tend to have added sugars as well.

Drinking Wine and Coffee

Imagine a white shirt hanging on a hanger gets a cup of coffee and wine thrown on it. The longer you let that shirt set without treating it, the less likely you will be able to get the stains out. This is the same way you want to think about your teeth. Things that stain your clothes can also stain your teeth. Culprits of tooth discoloration include soda, tea, coffee, and wine. 

Alcohol can also cause dry mouth and dehydration which reduces flow of your saliva. Over time, this can cause more serious problems such as gum disease and tooth decay. Sugary cocktails are also bad because of all the added sugar. Essentially you are bathing your teeth in sugar for an extended period of time. 

If you plan to continue drinking these beverages, make sure you are taking precautions to save yourself a visit to the dentist in the future. Try using water to rinse your teeth after consuming these beverages. If you plan on brushing your teeth after drinking a cup of coffee, make sure you wait 20-30 minutes after because the acidity in coffee weakens your enamel.

Gummy Vitamins

Modern vitamins and nutritional supplements finally come in a delicious gummy form. They are easier to take and come in yummy flavors. But did you know that these supplements might actually be damaging your teeth? Taking your vitamins are considered good habits, but they can turn into bad habits that can harm your teeth if you are taking them in a gummy form. 

Adults and children will take their gummy vitamins in the morning then go about their day, but what they don’t know is that this sugary/gummy substance attaches to their teeth causing damage throughout the day.

Gummy vitamins can be a good source of supplements, but maybe you should think of switching to a chewable non-gummy vitamin if you have issues taking swallowable supplements. 

Crunching on Ice cubes

You may have the tendency to crunch down on the ice left in your drink when you finish it, but this habit may have a long-term negative impact on your teeth. Since ice is such a strong material, chewing on it may lead to tooth fractures. These sorts of effects are not typically noticed immediately, but if you are a frequent ice chewer, we want to warn you to be careful. This type of habit causes your teeth to become weak and may even fracture one day. 

The enamel on your tooth is incredibly strong, but it is not impermeable to damage. Biting down on other hard foods like breath mints and hard candy may also harm your teeth.

Crunching on ice cubes can potentially cause your teeth to break which can lead to a dental emergency. Learn more about dental emergencies in our other blog post, “Dental Emergency Guide.”

Adding Vinegar or Lemon

There isn’t anything wrong with occasionally adding lemon to your tea or water, but constantly drinking beverages that are citrus-infused or drinking detox drinks that are vinegar based may weaken your enamel over time. 

If you are enjoying these acidic beverages regularly, try rinsing thoroughly afterwards with water. You can also help prevent tooth erosion by waiting 30 minutes after drinking these beverages to brush your teeth. 

Constant Snacking

We understand it can be hard to resist your snacking urges, but consuming multiple small meals throughout the day may put you at risk for cavities. When you constantly eat throughout your day, your teeth are subject to constant exposure to an acidic environment. This can increase your chances of tooth decay or demineralization. 

You definitely should not let yourself go hungry. Instead, try making food choices that are healthy for your teeth such as: fat-free or low-fat milk, cheese and yogurt, tofu and fortified soy drinks, almonds, canned salmon, and dark leafy green vegetables. Other foods such as fish, eggs, dairy, lean meat, beans, and nuts are also good for strong teeth.

Constant snacking is one of the habits that can harm your teeth causing cavities. Learn more about what causes cavities and when to see the dentist in our other blog post, “Signs You May Have a Cavity.”


Smoking is not only bad for your overall health, it can actually have a terrible impact on your gums, teeth, and mouth. Quitting smoking is one of the best ways to improve your general health and protect your teeth.

Smoking can cause devastating effects to the soft tissues in your mouth including your tongue, cheeks, and gums. It creates an unhealthy environment and causes staining to your teeth. Smokers tend to me more prone to oral cancer, gum disease, and dental decay. 

Using mouthwashes that are anti-tar or using a specialized toothpaste may help prevent short-term staining, but the better option would be to quit smoking all together. 

Toothbrush Storage

Did you know storing your toothbrush in a drawer can actually be harmful? The way you store your toothbrush may affect your oral health. 

You should store your toothbrush in a place where it decreases the chance of bacterial growth. Try using a container that stores it upright and leaves it exposed to open air. Storing your toothbrush in a closed container makes it a great place for bacteria to live, and can lead to harm to your gums and teeth.

Making a small investment in a toothbrush holder or stand will allow you to keep your brush dry and clean, but also make your bathroom counter extra tidy. 

Mouthwash With Alcohol

I bet you didn’t think that mouthwash could be a bad habit that could harm your teeth. Mouthwash is a great tool to fight tooth decay and keep your breath fresh. However, you need to make sure you are choosing the right kind. If you are using an alcohol-based mouthwash, it can dehydrate your mouth leaving it a great place for bad bacteria to grow. 

Mouthwash can help deliver decay-fighting fluoride to your teeth and keep your breath fresh. However, it’s important to choose the right kind. Try using a mouthwash that is formulated with xylitol or without alcohol. Xylitol actually helps stimulate production of saliva which in turn keeps your mouth even healthier. 

Eating habits have a huge impact on your oral health! This article from the ADA gives some more quick information on eating habits and how it effects your oral health “Eating habits for
a healthy smile and body”

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