Have you every stopped to take inventory of yourself and your habits? You check your posture and put a smile on your face, but how about those subconscious nervous habits that, more often than not, annoy anyone around you?
In times of stress we fidget and tap our feet. There are many “tells” that indicate discomfort but there could be more serious health reasons to try and curb these bad habits.
1. Biting Your Nails, Pencils, Pens, etc.
Think about how many times those pens have been touched with all the germs, pathogens and viruses that we pass along with our hands. The bacteria underneath your nails should be enough to make you cringe. If that doesn’t make you stop the next time you instinctively go for an oral fixation, consider this: chewing on hard things can damage your teeth.
Whenever you chew on things harder than typical food items you run the risk of damaging your teeth, sensitive dental work as well as injure the soft tissue and gums inside your mouth. That goes for plastic straws, ice, and even tooth picks.
2. Chewing Gum
Chewing gum is often marketed as good oral hygiene. Other than freshening breath, chewing gum can possibly do more harm than help. For one, it can lead to symptoms of TMJ disorders from overusing the muscle in your jaw. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects your lower jaw to your skull and pain from TMJ disorders can cause your jaw to pop and crack, headaches and even locking up your jaw.
The second reason to curb your gum habit is the sweeteners. On one hand, you could choose the gums with Sorbitol, an artificial sweetener, but that produces a laxative effect – fun! But going with naturally sweetened gum bathes your teeth in sugar – not good either!
Natural sweeteners in gum have been proven to kill the bacteria that cause bad breath but it is also a source of tooth decay. Weigh your options on this one.
3. Biting the Inside of Your Cheek
If biting the inside of your mouth settles your nerves, it’d be a good idea to find some kind of substitute. Morsicatio baccarum (chronic cheek biting) cause sores and injury to the buccal mucosa (the lining on the inside of the cheek). If you find it hard to break this habit, either by training and conscious effort, relaxation or other techniques, an occlusal splint might be recommended to cover the biting surfaces of the teeth and protect the cheek. It may only be necessary in the short term in order to break the habit, or, more permanently, by wearing it every night.
4. Licking or Biting Your Lips
Licking your lips excessively exposes them to your mouth’s digestive enzymes. Dermatitis and cheilitis (inflammation) can occur when these enzymes eat away at the skin which makes them appear dry and cracked.
Constantly biting your lips can also cause the development of fibromas, which are firm flesh-colored growths. These can sometimes require surgical removal so beware.
5. Grinding Your Teeth
It is estimated that 22-33% of the general population suffer from stress-induced bruxism. Bruxism, or excessively grinding and clenching your teeth, can cause damage to your TMJ including aching jaw muscles and headaches.
Grinding your teeth can also require serious dental work to repair. Attrition, the flattening of the biting surface, and other types of tooth wear occur. Abraction is the formation of notches around the neck of the teeth at the gumline. Tooth fractures, pain, inflammation and hypersensitive teeth are just a few of the effects.