Don’t Bite That! Bad Habits to Avoid with Braces


Millions of people of all ages use orthodontics to straighten their teeth each year. Clear aligner therapies like Invisalign® are popular not only because they are invisible and removable, but because they are difficult to break or damage. However, not all teeth can be straightened with clear aligner orthodontics, and even clear or tooth-colored systems like six-month adult orthodontics have wires and brackets to contend with.

And it isn’t just food that can damage your teeth or your braces! Your Smithville dentists Dr. Garrison and Dr. Alissa Becknell would like to remind you of a few bad habits that need breaking to have the best results with your orthodontic treatment.

Using Teeth as Tools

This can be really tempting—you want that package open now, and your teeth are right there. However, even without braces, using your teeth as a tool is a bad idea. Using teeth to open things can cause chips, and if teeth have braces on them, the braces are at risk, too. Don’t use your teeth to hold things, either. Even if you try not to bite down on whatever you are holding, you can stumble, bite down hard, and cause injury.

Chewing On Things

Chewing on pens, pencils, bottle tops, and other hard objects can loosen wires in braces, causing them to slide off or not work effectively. Pencils can also be dangerous due to metal, wood and paint construction that can not only ruin braces but cause inflammation in the mouth if ingested.

A chewing habit is often a byproduct of stress, and for those with braces, it can increase tension by creating the need for expensive repairs, replacements, or extending orthodontic treatment times. If not chewing on things is a challenge, Garrison Family Dentistry may recommend a retainer and advise you to find other ways to channel your nervous energy.

Nail Biting

An estimated 50% of adults and 25% of teenagers bite their nails, which transfers a bunch of nasty germs from fingers to the mouth and results in undue stress on the teeth and jaw joint. Biting nails can also chip teeth and, in extreme cases, push the teeth out of position, so it’s best to kick the habit—and what better reason and time to do so!

Thumb Sucking

While thumb sucking begins in childhood, there are teens and adults who do it, too. This habit pushes the teeth out of alignment and can alter the structure of the jaw. Like nail biting, it also transfers germs from the thumb into the mouth. Try coating the thumb in something bitter to the taste or wrapping the thumb in cloth to kick the habit.

Aggressive Brushing

Using excessive force when brushing can wear away protective tooth enamel. Dentists estimate that between 10 and 20% of the population have damaged teeth or gums from overbrushing. Extra plaque and tartar can only be removed with professional cleaning, after all. If you get too enthusiastic about brushing while wearing braces, the potential for damage to your orthodontia exists, too.

Not Using a Mouthguard

Protect your hardware and your face! A ball, puck, bat, elbow, leg, or anything else to the face doesn’t feel good at any time. Braces make things even more complicated, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit on the sidelines. To prevent injury to your face and keep teeth and braces from getting damaged, wear a custom-fitted mouthguard—and go, team, go!

Chewing Ice

No matter how satisfying crunching on ice cubes seems on a hot day, the freezing temperature and hard consistency of ice can crack braces (and potentially teeth). Even if teeth remain intact, ice tends to increase sensitivity and susceptibility to pain. If you’re an ice-chewer, we recommend kicking the habit whether or not you wear braces. (Besides, that crunching noise is bound to annoy someone sitting nearby.)

Smoking & Chewing Tobacco

The potential negative health risks of smoking and chewing tobacco are well-documented; after all, the packaging for both includes a disclaimer. In addition to the health risks, smoking also stains teeth a yellow-brown shade. Braces only help discolor teeth faster by trapping particles that cause staining, allowing them time to sit on the teeth longer and do even more damage. Since bleeding gums, sore throat, and bad breath are also tobacco side effects, maybe straightening your teeth would be the perfect time to quit!

Neglecting Your Oral Hygiene Routine

Just don’t do it! Garrison Family Dentistry knows how easy it can be to become busy and put it off, but as stated above, teeth with braces are harder to keep clean than teeth without them, so don’t skip brushing and flossing. In fact, you should be extra diligent during this time because it’s easier for plaque and tartar to develop while you have braces, which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

Postponing Dental or Orthodontist Visits

You should visit your dentist every six months, braces or no braces—and stick to your orthodontic treatment schedule because it’s an important part of your treatment plan. If you put off scheduled visits, minor orthodontic issues can become bigger problems. Keeping your scheduled appointments will help prevent major dental work and unnecessary procedures resulting from neglect.

If you have any questions about good and bad habits while wearing braces or would like to schedule an orthodontic appointment with your Smithville dentists, contact us today!

The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

*Dr. Matthew Garrison and Dr. Alissa Becknell are general dentists providing orthodontic services.

Garrison Family Dentistry
14790 N US 169 Highway
Smithville, MO 64089
(816) 873-1015​

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