Bad Dental Habits Damaging Teeth and Gums

By Dr. Rosalind Ho BDS (S’pore) MFGDP (UK)

Bad habits can cause problems for your teeth and gums. It can start from young and can only be put right if the patient is aware and is committed to removing the habit. Many adults still have habits that they are unaware of.

The costs to fix these problems may be exorbitant and time-consuming. Hence, awareness and prevention are the best.

What are the damaging habits?

Putting objects between the teeth, for example;

end of the spectacles

a pen or pencil

a pipe


thumb sucking usually seen in children

toothpick usually jammed in between gums to remove food

chewing , biting on the lips or cheeks
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What are the effects of these habits?

  • Tooth wear–usually presents as a notch or dent on the edges of the teeth or chip off the enamel.
  • Tooth movement–There are cases where the tooth is moved out of position as in flaring out or tilting as in movement under braces.
  • Gaps appear–Due to the movement of teeth, spacing may show resulting in esthetic problems, food stuck, and speech impairment especially in the front teeth.
  • An open bite can develop in the front or back teeth affecting mastication.
  • Sensitivity–Constant pressure to the teeth can result in teeth being sensitive or the enamel has become abraded exposing dentine which has a nerve supply.
  • Cracking of teeth and restorations–This happens when the objects such as ice or nuts are repeatedly cracked by the teeth. The latter may chip or crack and fillings also may fracture.
  • Soft tissue damage can occur when objects such as a pin or pen slip during the biting and lacerate the gums. Lips and cheeks can become inflamed and infected if repeatedly chewed unconsciously.
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How to avoid damage to teeth and gums

It begins with self-awareness and the desire to put a stop to these bad habits. The defects should be brought to the patients’ attention.

For young children, thumb sucking can be eradicated by issuing an appliance which helps to stop thumb-sucking.

After dental treatment, if local anesthetic had been administered to a child, he or she must be reminded not to chew the lips or cheek due to the numb feeling.

Regular check-ups with the dentist help to expose these habits which may be unconscious.

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