Stewart J. Wright, Holistic Dental Practitioner

Location:
 Home > Dental Problems > Bad Habits
 
Home Page
Holistic Care page
Treatments page
Problems page
Find Us page
Links page
Email Stewart
 
Bad Habits

SpineHabits are repetitive behaviours, which we often do without thinking. Some habits, such as brushing your teeth every morning, are healthy. Others can be damaging to your health. This page explains habits, which might specifically be damaging to your dental health. They may surprise you!

Habits are behaviour patterns, which we repeat so often, that they become ingrained. They often begin at an early age. Sometimes we don't even realise that we are doing them. At that point, our habits are said to be unconscious, and they are hard to break!

The following describes habits, which may be damaging to dental health. Check whether you do any of them.


Damaging habits involving the mouth

Clenching your teeth

Except when chewing and swallowing, the teeth should never touch! Keeping the upper and lower teeth clenched together most of the time will tire out the muscles and wear down the teeth. It is good to remember - 'lips together - teeth apart'.

Biting fingernails, lips, or inside of cheeks
Frowning steadily
Chewing on pens, pencils, or gum
Supporting a pipe with the teeth rather than your hand

All of these specifically involve the mouth and disrupt the balance of muscular forces that control the growth and position of your teeth. Muscles not only open and close your mouth, but they also control your lips, tongue, and cheeks. When all the forces are pulling their equal weight, a balance of forces occurs between the lips and cheeks on the outside, the tongue on the inside, and the teeth against each other. Anything, which disrupts this balance, can actually move the teeth and result in an unstable bite. This can eventually cause your teeth to become cracked, or loose, or even fallout! An unstable bite can also lead to symptoms such as jaw pain or headaches.


Damaging Habits Involving Your Posture

Carrying your head too far forward in front of your shoulders

A 'forward head posture' is when the head is carried too far forward in front of the shoulders. Your head weighs approximately 15 pounds - the weight of an average bowling ball! With each inch forward the strain of supporting the head triples. Not only does this strain the neck, back, and shoulders, but it also affects the jaw muscles and could even change your bite.

Sleeping on your stomach so that your head and neck are in a strained position
Carrying heavy shoulder bags or purses
Cradling the telephone with your shoulder
Resting your chin in your hand
Watching TV (or anything else) with your head at a sharp angle, such as when lying in bed with your chin on your breast bone
Working at a surface that is too high

Most people do not equate posture with dental health. Poor posture, however, can throw your head and spine off balance in relation to gravity. This places unnecessary wear and tear on your muscles and joints. Posture has a 'chain reaction' effect up and down your body. Your head position will especially affect your chewing muscles. Muscles are stronger than teeth, and when they are strained they can cause the teeth to move, crack, or chip. These poor postural habits can also eventually cause pain in the muscles of the jaw, head, neck and shoulders.


'Changing Habits
The good news about habits is that they CAN be changed. This is up to you. Here are the 'three Rs' for breaking habits:

1. Realise: the first step in changing any habit is to realise you're doing it. Write down those habits you are already aware of. Ask family members or friends to add to the list. Think about your habits in relation to how often you do them and under what circumstances. You may even chart this information for a week or two.

2. Replace: when you notice you are engaging in a behaviour, which you want to stop, replace the behaviour was something else. For instance, if you realise that your clenching your teeth, take a deep breath and blow out of your mouth .. allow your jaw to relax. Sometimes it helps to use reminders to call your attention to the habit. For instance, every time you hear the phone ring, or see the colour blue, pay attention to whether or not you're clenching your teeth.

3. Reinforce: each time you stop your habit - congratulate yourself! Say to yourself, 'I did it - great!' You may even identify other ways to reward yourself without having the bite corrected by the dentist.

What Help is Needed?
Not all habits can be changed through your own effort. Sometimes professional help is needed. If you have old habits, which involve your mouth, such as clenching your teeth, they may have changed your bite. It would be very hard to change the habit without having the bite corrected by a dentist.

Habits, which involve your posture, such as carrying your head too far forward, may eventually cause certain muscles to shorten. In this case, help from a physical therapist may be needed to relax and stretch those muscles. Therapeutic work with a chiropractor in conjunction with your dentist may also help to correct spinal imbalances.

If you checked any of the habits described on this page, discuss them with your dentist at your next appointment. Your dentist will explain how they might damage your dental health and will evaluate whether or not any damage has already occurred.




Stewart J. Wright, Holistic Dental Practitioner, Shore Street Dental Surgery, Cawdor Place, Shore Street, Oban PA34 4LQ

01631 563006