One of the most common ways people crack their permanent teeth, break fillings or damage their dental restorations is by using their teeth as tools.
You may be one of the people we are talking about, and you may not even realize you’re at risk for damaging your teeth until something breaks, pops, cracks or hurts.
It’s OK! Many people do not know the dangers of using their teeth as tools or have been using their teeth as tools for years without incident.
If you’re using your teeth to open bottles and packages or to tear into something, try these tips for keeping your teeth healthy and able to do the only job they were intended for: biting and chewing.
Chewing Your Nails
If you bite your nails, we recommend trying to quit as soon as possible. Here’s why: Chewing your nails is not only bad for your nails, but it’s also bad for your teeth. Also, when you bite your nails, you’re putting bacteria that live under your nails into your mouth.
Your nails can also scratch your gums or lips and increase your chance of developing a very painful infection.
Your teeth can also slip off of a nail and collide, which can cause cracks or chips over time.
Instead of biting or chewing your nails, we recommend that you carry nail clippers or nail scissors with you to manicure your nails when you’re on the go. Some individuals also benefit from nail polish designed to kick the nail-biting habit — it doesn’t taste good, so it dissuades you from biting your nails.
Some individuals also try chewing gum to help break the nail-biting habit, but if you choose to go that route, we recommend that you choose a sugar-free gum with Xylitol and chew in moderation to keep your mouth, teeth and jaw healthy.
Using Your Teeth as Scissors
We’ve all been there; you need to cut something, and you don’t have scissors. So you just use your teeth to tear off that tag or rip through plastic packages.
But the risks of using your teeth as scissors are the same as the risks that come with chewing or biting your nails: bacteria, damage to your mouth tissues and the chance of cracking your teeth.
So the same suggestion goes: Carry a small pair of scissors with you to help tackle those obstacles when you need scissors and use them instead of your teeth!
This one makes us cringe. Are you using your front teeth to flip the top of a bottle? Or are you using your molars to unscrew a cap? What about using your teeth as a bottle opener to crack open a beer?
The potential for damage to your mouth and tooth enamel from using your teeth to open bottles is high. This damage can include broken teeth, popping out a filling or even severely cutting your gums.
We recommend not taking the chance. Instead, carry a bottle opener on a key ring to open beer bottles or a rubber band to get those stubborn twist caps off. (To use the rubber band, just wrap it around the top a few times and twist.)
If you need to open a flip-top bottle, use the nail clippers, scissors or bottle opener.
We also recommend that you don’t use your teeth as tools to crack tough things such as nuts, shellfish or hard snacks.
Are your hands full getting out of the car? That’s OK; you can just carry that bag, cup, bottle or phone in your mouth, right? No! Please do not do this. By trying to carry things in your mouth, you’re at risk of damaging your teeth and jaw joints. You’re also at risk if you fall – you could choke or be seriously injured upon impact.
Chewing on Non-Food Items
Do you have the habit of chewing on things that aren’t edible: pencils, pens, necklaces or anything else? These things may seem harmless, but they have the same risk factors as other bad habits. Over time, you could be damaging your teeth and putting unnecessary strain on your jaw joints.
If Damage Happens
Not using your teeth as tools will help keep them strong, whole and healthy. If you find that you have damaged a tooth by opening a package or bottle or by tearing into something you shouldn’t, call us right away.
We promise we won’t be mad or lecture you. Getting immediate care can help to minimize any damage and complications for your oral health. If you lose or damage a tooth, we’re here to help with a wide range of cosmetic dental options too, including dental implants.
We’re here to help and can get your smile back to how it should be!