Bad Habits That Can Be Harming Your Teeth

Written by Josh Beechraft

February 19, 2021

“One bad habit often spoils a dozen good ones.”
—Napoleon Hill
Good habits are life giving. They improve our health—physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

How many of us feel better when we are in the habit of exercising regularly? We may not feel too great in that first week, but in the weeks that follow our bodies adapt and our energy increases.

Our energy improves, making way for us to be more productive in our day. Accomplishing more during our day lends itself to less stress and mental clarity.
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When you feel better mentally, your emotions tend to lighten … All stemming from one good habit. That one good habit began a string of other good habits.

Successful people have consistent, good habits. They typically have a morning routine that starts the day off on the right foot, so to speak.

Wake up early, think positive thoughts, write in a journal, read for enrichment, exercise for twenty minutes, eat wholesome food, reach out to a friend, put away clutter, get a good night’s sleep … the list of good habits goes on and on.

Yep. Those habits build on one another until … something happens. A friend gets angry with you, your boyfriend breaks up with you, you lose a business deal, or a death occurs in your family … Suddenly, those good habits don’t seem to matter.

You grab that glass of wine, eat that pint of ice cream, have the extra bread and rolls … and skip the workout. Then, you skip that workout again. You don’t feel like it.

The one good habit that started it all has been broken. A bad habit replaces it.

Bad habits are easier to keep. They don’t take much effort to maintain … But their devastation is much harder to remedy.

There is no place more evident of bad habits than the mouth.

Bad Habits Harm Your Teeth

You can brush your teeth every day, twice a day, but if you continue with your bad habits, the brushing will be in vain. You cannot brush away consistent, bad habits.

Some habits that harm your teeth may not even be known to you. It is important for you to know the things you may be doing that are harming your teeth.

There are a whole slew of bad habits that negatively affect your teeth. This list covers quite a few of them.

Nail Biting

If you bite your nails, you probably already know it is a terrible habit. Your fingernails are the perfect hiding place for germs and bacteria. Each time you bite them, you are putting those nasty germs in your mouth.

young lady biting nail


Biting your nails is also destructive to the teeth. Chewing on your nails regularly wears the teeth down while cracking and chipping them.

Nail-biting will also affect the function of your jaw. The movement of your jaw while gnawing away at your teeth is very unnatural.

Using Your Teeth as Scissors

Does that sound confusing? If so, you may not be guilty of this little habit. However, if you know exactly what it means to use your teeth as scissors, then you can imagine what this looks like.

That shirt with a price tag on it? Those socks bundled together? No problem. You’ll just bite through that little plastic thingy with your teeth. (Guilty. Right here. 100%.)

Find some scissors and let them do the work for you. Otherwise, you risk cracking or chipping your teeth. Chipped spots in your teeth don’t grow back.

Brushing Teeth Aggressively

While it may seem like you should treat your teeth the same way you wood a stained floor, it’s not quite the case. Scrubbing floors vigorously with a scrub brush may work out those stains.

If you brush your teeth aggressively, you may succeed in removing stains, yes. However, you’ll also succeed in removing enamel and irritating your gums. That is counterproductive to your oral care.

Brush your teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush for two to three minutes twice every day. If you’re doing it right, your teeth will be clean and your mouth will not be sore.

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Crunching on Ice

Some of you just died a little inside. You love your ice. It makes you happy to run to Sonic and grab a cup of those tiny, little frozen crystals. Now, you’re probably having a little daydream.

Quit that. It’s bad. If your dentist could follow you around and smack that cup of ice to the ground, she would. Your dentist knows that chewing on ice puts you at greater risk for cracking a perfectly healthy tooth.


Smokers are most certainly not known for having healthy, white teeth. The tobacco in cigarettes stains the teeth a dreary shade of yellow.

burning cigarette


Smoking is a habit that brings no benefit to your body. It increases your chances of oral cancers and gum disease.

Yellow teeth, gum disease, or cancer. It’s the trifecta of yuck.

Regular Snacking

Snacking all day long means that food particles are always present on your teeth. That puts you at risk for tooth decay.

It isn’t practical to brush your teeth all day long, nor is it easy on your gums. That is what you might have to do if you eat all day long.

Limit your snacking in between meals and always follow it up with plenty of water and possibly sugar-free gum with xylitol.

Sucking Your Thumb

Don’t deny it. I know there are some of you who wake up with your thumb in your mouth. You don’t do it on purpose any more. It is a habit from your childhood. A comfort that you could not quit.

Thumb sucking is okay when you are a teething baby. However, when you continue the habit, it changes the structure of your gums and teeth. It causes an overbite.

The only way to correct an overbite of thumb-sucking proportions is to see an orthodontist and have it fixed with treatment.

Grinding Your Teeth

Many of you know what happens when your teeth are clenched together by a tightened jaw. The truth is, you probably won’t even realize you’re doing it. You’ll just have a headache that won’t go away. After a time, jaw pain will follow.

Quite often teeth grinding happens at night. How do you know? Well, your parents probably heard you as a child because it starts young. It isn’t a silent habit!

The best thing you can do to prevent further damage is to wear a mouthguard specifically designed for teeth grinding.

Eating Highly Acidic Foods

Acid is not a friend of teeth; that includes acids from healthy foods. That funny thing you did as a child with an orange slice? Placing it on your teeth like a retainer and then smiling? Yep. It was a bad idea.

The acid in citrus fruits and tomatoes or concentrated fruit juices is harmful to enamel. When left alone on your teeth, the acids from foods such as these will eat away at your enamel and put you at higher risk for tooth sensitivity and decay.

If you do eat something acidic, do not brush your teeth right away. Rinse your mouth with water and brush your teeth in about thirty minutes.

Playing Contact Sports Without Wearing a Mouthguard

If you play a contact sport, the risk of getting popped in the mouth is almost always there. This is why a mouthguard is so important. It greatly reduces the risk of injuring your mouth.

man holding sports helmet in hand


Wearing a custom-fitted mouthguard helps to prevent losing a tooth or chipping a tooth. A custom-fitted mouthguard can be done at home with hot water and cool water. It is a relatively simple and quick process.

Chewing on Pencils

Some of you chew on pencil erasers. Eww. This is not for you. This warning is for those of you who bite down or chew on pencils or pens. You’re not a beaver. Stop that.

There are germs and dirt on that thing that satiates your nervous habit. What’s more, biting down on wood or plastic regularly wears down your teeth and can damage them through weakened enamel or chips.


Do you remember those yummy cinnamon toothpicks? Oh my … if you like cinnamon, you would like these. But, don’t do it. They’re little devils. Toothpicks are used wrong on a regular basis.

It is the incorrect usage of toothpicks that causes the damage. Poking at the teeth to remove tartar and plaque is a bad idea because you can scratch your teeth and damage the enamel.

If you shove them deep into the gaps of your teeth, you can unwittingly cause the teeth to shift.

Toothpicks are meant to remove debris. Period.

Excess Sugar

Sugar and bacteria go together like peanut butter and jelly. Bacteria loves sugar. The more sugar present in the body, the more bacteria present.

The sugar we eat is essentially creating a feast for the bacteria that produces acid in our mouths. Those acids are responsible for eroding enamel and causing tooth decay.

Gummies, dried fruits, and hard candies are high in sugar and stick to the teeth. It is best to avoid them for the health of your teeth.

Alcohol, Sports Drinks, Soda

High sugar and the acidic pH of sports drinks and sodas puts the teeth at a higher risk of deterioration of the enamel, tooth decay, and tooth sensitivity.

And, we know you’re going to pretend you didn’t see this … but alcohol is in the same boat. Alcohol is highly acidic and can be very harmful to your tooth enamel. More bad news. Alcohol reduces your saliva production. That’s two wammies.

Alcohol does one more thing. It dries out your mouth when done in excess. Dry mouth gives you bad breath and increases your chances of getting cavities because there isn’t enough saliva to rinse away nasty bacteria.

How to Break Bad Habits

Bad habits are meant to be broken. But first, you must recognize them. So the first thing you’ll need to do is make yourself aware of the habits. (We’ve just given you a list, so that should be easy!)

Next, ask yourself why. Why have I chosen this habit? Think about what happens when you do it, what you are feeling, who is with you, and where you are when you do it.

Now, focus on your reason for change. Why do you want to change your habit? In the case of your teeth, it should be pretty obvious. (Unless, you like rotten teeth and dentures. Then, by all means, make no changes.)

Find an accountability partner. Tell somebody else the habit you are breaking and ask them to check in with you and call you out when you do it.

Replace bad habits with good habits. You must intentionally develop new habits that are healthy and lead to positive results. It will help to write these new habits down. You may even want to make yourself a routine.

Habits start in your mind. Recognizing destructive behavior patterns and replacing them with productive patterns will quite literally change your mind.

You can do this. Break those bad habits instead of living with a broken smile.

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