Chewing Ice & 9 Other Things That Are Bad for Your Teeth

Clinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
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There are several bad habits that harm your teeth leading to potential cracks, chips, loss of enamel, tooth sensitivity, misalignment, and even tooth loss. Chewing ice is one of them. 

It is well-known that you need to take good care of your teeth to keep them healthy by brushing and flossing twice per day and seeing your dentist regularly. You also need to avoid things that can be bad for your teeth, such as teeth grinding, smoking, and nail biting.

We’ve outlined 10 habits that are bad for your teeth:

The American Dental Association (ADA) reports that chewing ice is one of the worst things you can do for your teeth. 

Chewing ice can wear down the enamel on your teeth, which can lead to a host of problems, including tooth sensitivity and an increased risk for tooth decay and cavities. 

Chewing ice can also cause you to chip or crack a tooth or break or dislodge a filling. It can also injure your gums.

Snacking regularly throughout the day can cause plaque buildup, which can then lead to tooth decay and cavities. 

What and when you eat matters. For example, if you sip on a soda for a few hours or eat candy or crackers continually while sitting at your desk, you increase the amount of time that food stays on your teeth. 

When food remains on your teeth, it can transform into plaque. When sugar mixes with plaque, it makes acid that erodes your enamel. When you snack or sip sugary drinks often, this leads to increased acid attacks and more potential for tooth decay

These foods and drinks can be especially harmful:

  • Sugary snacks, such as candy, cookies, and cakes

  • Sticky, sugary foods

  • Sports drinks and sodas

  • Starchy foods, including chips and crackers

You may clench your jaw or grind your teeth subconsciously, especially at night. This can be very bad for your teeth and jaw. 

Teeth grinding can cause you to wear down and damage your teeth.1 Clenching your jaw can cause muscle tension, headaches, and jaw pain.

Biting your nails is a known bad habit, and it can be especially hazardous to your teeth and jaw. 

When you bite your nails, you often have to hold your jaw in an awkward forward position for an extended period of time. This can lead to jaw dysfunction, which can include restricted movement, cracking joints, and pain.2 

Nail biting can also damage the teeth, leading to chips or breaks. It can also cause them to move, which can create gaps and malocclusions (issues with your bite).

Using your teeth as tools can seem like a good idea when your hands are full or there are no scissors nearby, but this can damage your teeth. 

When you use your teeth to open packages, you can potentially crack or chip a tooth. Holding things in your mouth can damage or injure your jaw and also potentially cause your teeth to move.

While brushing your teeth is a good thing, it is possible to brush too hard or too often. 

Brushing your teeth too hard can wear your enamel down, which can increase your risk for tooth decay and cavities. It can also cause increased tooth sensitivity to hot and cold. 

The ADA recommends brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes using gentle strokes.

Thumb sucking beyond the age of 5 can cause serious dental issues, including jaw and teeth misalignment and teeth malocclusion. Thumb sucking can disrupt the normal growth of the jaw, gums, and roof of the mouth, and it can lead to speech issues. 

Over time, sucking the thumb can cause irregular pressure in the mouth, pressing the tongue down and into the teeth. It can therefore cause significant oral health issues in growing mouths if not addressed early.

Tobacco products can have many negative side effects on your health, including your oral health. It can cause bad breath, dry mouth, tooth decay, and oral cancer. 

Smoking can also increase your risk for gum disease. Gum disease from smoking can have the following consequences:3

  • Bleeding or tender gums

  • Red and swollen gums

  • Sensitive teeth

  • Pain when chewing

  • Loose teeth

  • Gums pulling away from the teeth, even leading to tooth loss

Popular drinks like coffee, red wine, soda, and tea contain tannins. These substances can cause teeth staining. 

With repeated exposure to these beverages, your teeth can turn a dull yellow or a light brown. 

There are several additional foods that can stain your teeth, such as these:

  • Soy sauce

  • Ketchup

  • Tomato-based sauces

  • Curry

  • Balsamic vinegar

A general rule is that if the food or drink will stain your white t-shirt, it can also stain your teeth.

Avoiding the dentist and not getting regular dental checkups and professional cleanings can lead to oral health and hygiene issues. 

It is inevitable to eventually have plaque buildup on your teeth, which can harden and form tartar. The only way to have this removed is through professional dental cleaning. If this plaque isn’t removed, it can significantly damage teeth, gums, and overall health.

It is recommended that you see a dentist at regular intervals, usually around twice every year or so, on a schedule determined by your dentist. 

Your dentist can be the first line of defense for many medical issues, not only those related to oral health. Dentists are often the first to recognize signs of certain health problems, such as diabetes, certain cancers, and heart disease.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.