12 examples of bad oral habits

Visiting your dentist on regular intervals can help to set a good example for your children, and cultivate good oral habits for your family. Conversely, bad oral hygiene habits can keep you from having a dazzling smile, while compromising the strength and health of your teeth and mouth.

If only for your convenience, good oral habits can lead to fewer appointments with the dentist, which in turn eliminates any discomfort you could have felt in the dentist’s chair and during recovery. This naturally also prevents unnecessary expenditure on dental treatments.

It is recommended that you brush and floss regularly to keep your mouth free of harmful bacteria. But even when doing this, there are some bad habits that cause many people to unknowingly damage their teeth

Examples of bad oral habits

Bad oral hygiene habits

Here are some examples of bad oral habits to avoid:

  1. Brushing too hard

The combination of a hard-bristled toothbrush and excessive pressure can cause permanent wear of the protective enamel layer, resulting in tooth sensitivity, cavities, and even receding gums. Consider getting an electric toothbrush, or buy a soft-bristled manual one, and brush using gentle, circular scrubbing motions twice a day, for two minutes per session.

  1. Using the wrong toothpaste

Very abrasive toothpastes, such as those designated as “tartar control” can erode enamel and lead to gum recession. The only important ingredient in toothpaste is fluoride.

  1. Failure to floss

Flossing helps to clean between your teeth, removing bacteria that could turn to plaque and then to tartar, resulting in serious dental problems.

  1. Thumb sucking

Children tend to suck their thumbs or fingers around the age of 6 years when their permanent teeth start emerging. Thumb sucking can cause misalignment of baby teeth, affecting your jaw structure. Eventually, your child can start experiencing breathing problems and difficulty chewing. So, help wean your child off this behavior.

  1. Using your teeth as tools

Many people have become so accustomed to using their teeth to rip open snack packages, unscrew bottle tops, break off tags on clothing, and a bunch of other unusual tasks that they don’t realize that it can damage their dental work or cause the teeth to crack.

  1. Chewing on foreign objects

Teeth are meant to help you accomplish three things: chew food, speak properly, and smile better. So, you should also avoid chewing or holding objects between your teeth, like pen caps, ice, or eyeglasses. If you feel the need to chew, carry some sugar-free gum or veggies to keep your mouth occupied with a healthy alternative.

  1. Nail biting

This is a harmful practice that not only affects the look of your hands, but also the integrity of your teeth and mouth. Your teeth can get damaged, and dirt in your nails and fingers can cause oral hygiene concerns. Many people who bite their nails often do it chronically without realizing that it can cause their teeth to move out of place, break, or splinter.

  1. Taking soda

Last but not least, carbonated drinks are harmful to your teeth because of their acidity. Even diet soda can corrode your enamel. Experts say that slowly sipping the soda over a long period of time is particularly bad, because you will be exposing your teeth to that acidity for longer. Acidity can lead to dental health problems, like loss of enamel and decay. If you have to take soda, rinse your mouth or brush your teeth after minutes (to avoid abrading your teeth in the acid environment).

  1. Frequent Snacking

It’s recommended that you brush, or rinse your mouth with water after every meal to remove any leftover food particles that can serve as food for bacteria in your mouth, which in turn produces acid that erodes tooth enamel and causes decay. However, snacking frequently means that you continuously introduce sugary foods in your mouth, which is counterproductive to your oral health efforts.

  1. Smoking

All forms of tobacco are harmful to different parts of your body, including your heart, lungs, and teeth. Although smoking is largely associated with lung cancer, there are many other more obvious side effects such as tooth discoloration, tooth decay, tooth loss, bad breath, loss of taste, gum disease, and even oral cancer. It’s important that you work with your dentist on not only managing the effects of using tobacco products, but also smoking cessation.

  1. Heavy Drinking

The more alcohol you consume, the more your body gets dehydrated, including drying out your mouth. Since there isn’t enough saliva to wash away bacteria in your mouth, you may begin to experience bad breath. With bacteria building up in your mouth, and the additional effect of alcohol acidity, your tooth enamel wear increases significantly, increasing your risk of cavities. So you should reduce your alcohol consumption and continuously rehydrate – by drinking water – as you drink.

  1. Teeth grinding

People who clench their jaws and grind their teeth while sleeping are at risk of severe tooth wear and damage, exposing them to decay. Visiting a dentist can help you manage the effects of bruxism by wearing a night guard or recommend other treatments.

Final Note

In conclusion, bad oral habits like teeth grinding, nail biting, and improper brushing can truly damage your teeth, gums, and oral health over time. Make a conscious effort to quit any ongoing poor habits immediately and be diligent about proper oral hygiene. 

Seek help from your dentist for managing disorders like bruxism with dental appliances. Schedule regular professional cleanings and checkups every 6 months to closely monitor your teeth and gums. With vigilance against bad habits and consistency with dental visits and home care, you can correct existing issues and maintain optimal oral health for life.


  • Editorial team

    A team comprising oral health care professionals, researchers, and professional Writers, striving to impart you with the knowledge to improve your oral health, and that of your loved ones. 

  • Lilly

    Lilly, aka, Liza Lee, is a passionate community oral health officer and our lead writer. She's not only well-versed in performing a multitude of dental procedures, including preventive, restorative, and cosmetic, but also an avid writer. Driven by the significant oral health burden all around her, Lilly strives to build capacity and promote oral health. She envisions making a lasting impact by advancing research, prevention, and promotion efforts to alleviate oral health disparities. Please share your views and opinions on my posts.

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