It’s the Little Things: 2 Small Daily Habits that Hurt Our Teeth
The enamel on our teeth is harder than steel–harder, in fact, than any bone in the human body. But, even something as strong as steel has its vulnerabilities: teeth–for all their chomping strength–can also be surprisingly brittle and prone to acid erosion. Small, seemingly harmless daily habits can slowly chip away at the strength of our teeth and put them at risk for serious damage.
Habit #1 – Biting your Nails
Most people don’t think of nail-biting as a big deal. Sure, your nails might look a little ragged, but what’s the harm? The real harm isn’t your nails, it’s your teeth. Tooth enamel is harder than keratin (our fingernails are made of keratin), which means enamel can hold its own, but a daily nail-biting habit will slowly start to wear down the enamel. And the reason for this is simple: our nails are constantly growing and being replenished, whereas we only have one set of teeth.
Habitual nail-biting can crack and chip teeth; it can even shift them out of alignment over time, resulting in gaps and bad bites. It can even start to break down the roots of the teeth. Our fingernails are also full of dirt and germs and nail-biting brings dirt and germs into our mouths, causing gum disease.
Habit #2 – Breathing Through Your Mouth
When we breathe through our nose, we produce nitric oxide, a molecule that helps our lungs absorb oxygen. Mouth breathing skips this step, depriving our bodies of vital oxygen. This means less energy and more fatigue.
Aside from less energy, mouth breathing also means:
Dry mouth: Breathing through your mouth dries it out. This is a bigger problem than you might think: saliva is the first line of defense against oral bacteria. More bacteria in your mouth means bad breath and tooth decay.
Sleep apnea: Habitual mouth breathing can make you develop sleep apnea, which makes it difficult to get restful sleep and increases your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure.
Altered bone growth: When our mouths are closed, the tongue rests correctly and allows for dental arches and facial bones to develop well. Mouth breathing leads to narrow arches, flat facial features, drooping eyes, and an undersized chin. Narrow dental arches can cause your teeth to crowd together. In order to correct this, expensive orthodontic treatments will usually be required.
Breaking Habits is Tough–but not Impossible!
If you struggle with nail-biting, mouth breathing, or both, or you’ve noticed that your child is, we can help. Give your favorite Colorado Springs DDS a call. We want you to have all the information and support you need to break these daily habits and have the beautiful and healthy smile you deserve.
Answers to common questions
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that happens when your breathing stops and starts while you slumber. If it goes untreated, it can cause loud snoring, daytime tiredness, or more serious problems like heart trouble or high blood pressure.
What is keratin?
Keratin is the type of protein that makes up your hair, skin, and nails. Keratin can also be found in your internal organs and glands. Keratin is a protective protein, less prone to scratching or tearing than other types of cells your body produces.