Three Nervous Habits That Are Harming Your Teeth
We've all got a nervous habit or two, whether it's chewing nails, tapping toes or chomping gum. For the most part, nervous habits are harmless – but there are a few that can be bad news for oral health. Here are three to stop.
Nail biting. Nibbling on your nails can stress your teeth and send slivers of fingernail into your gums. To keep yourself from chewing on your nails, keep them trimmed and smooth, or apply a bitter-tasting polish that will stop you as soon as you get a taste.1
Chewing cheeks. Biting your cheek when you're nervous or mulling something over can lead to problems such as canker sores. Mouth sores like these can make it very painful to eat or even brush your teeth. If you get one of these sores, you can apply an over-the-counter ointment that contains a topical anesthetic to help relieve the discomfort – but your best bet is to kick the habit!2
Teeth Grinding (Bruxism) and Jaw Clenching. Many people tend to grind or clench their teeth while sleeping or awake. It's a nervous or angry habit for some, but the overall reasons are not fully understood. Over time, grinding (bruxing) and clenching can lead to damaged, worn down and sensitive teeth, jaw problems and facial pain.
We realize that stopping a nervous habit is easier said than done. When you catch yourself reverting to one of your bad habits, switch to something that's not harmful to your teeth, such as squeezing a stress ball or tapping toes. Better yet, take a few moments to breathe deeply and bring your stress levels down. If you can't seem to stop – or if you grind or clench subconsciously in your sleep – discuss the problem with your dentist. He or she may prescribe a nighttime mouthguard to help prevent damage and pain.3