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5 everyday habits that are damaging your enamel


by Dr. Christine Coughlin DDS

Do you ever clench your teeth when you’re stressed? I do! Do you sometimes use your teeth to open packages or crack open a nutshell? Or do you like to chew on ice or your nails? (I’ve been guilty of the latter). Or what about those sugary frappuccinos that you love?

We’ve all been guilty of one or more of these bad habits. But most of us have no clue that these seemingly “harmless” daily habits of ours are irreversibly damaging our precious enamel, which unfortunately doesn’t grow back like our hair or nails.

Be nice to your teeth

We can often be pretty rough on our teeth, not realizing how delicate they are.

Our adult teeth are called “permanent” teeth for a reason. We only get one set for the rest of our lives. We need to treat them with the care they deserve to shine healthy and serve us for a lifetime.

You’d be surprised to find out that some of the most damaging habits for our teeth are things we do every day without even thinking about it. 

Habits that harm your enamel

The most common bad habits that can ruin your teeth are bruxism (aka teeth grinding or clenching), your diet, chewing habits, overbrushing, and unsafe DIY teeth whitening.

All of these habits have one thing in common.

They ruin your teeth.

They can wear away your enamel (the hard, white outer layer of your teeth) and expose the dentin (the yellow, softer inner layer of the teeth), leading to an even faster breakdown of your teeth.

Tooth wear leads to more dental problems.

Occlusal wear, a condition where your teeth are worn away over time, can be very costly to you. 

It can ruin your smile and confidence by making your teeth appear yellow due to dentin (the soft, yellow layer under the enamel) exposure.

It can cause your smile to look aged, uneven, and flat. It can also ruin your bite and cause your teeth not to fit together properly.

It can also lead to pain and sensitivity as the hard protective enamel layer is worn down, and the more sensitive parts of your teeth are exposed.

Furthermore, this can lead to cavities, chips, and fractures in your teeth that may need fillings, root canals, or extractions. It can also cause TMJ, Chronic Headaches, and TMJ disorders, leading to jaw pain and difficulty opening and closing your mouth.

The good news is you can stop or prevent these issues today.

Bruxism and enamel loss

The first habit is bruxism – aka Teeth grinding or clenching (caused by a combination of physical, psychological, and genetic factors) is often caused by stress.

Unfortunately, this condition is extremely prevalent and often goes undiagnosed for years without proper examination.

And most people don’t realize they’re doing this because it’s happening in their sleep.

Bruxism can cause worn, chipped, or broken teeth and a smile line that looks flat or uneven, and TMJ (jaw joint) disorders.

Think you might be grinding your teeth?

Here are some warning signs of teeth grinding:

  • Jaw pain and ache (especially when you wake up in the morning)
  • headaches
  • Wear patterns on the biting surfaces of your teeth
  • The yellow appearance of your teeth from dentin exposure
  • Teeth sensitivity
  • Broken or fractured filling, crowns, or veneers
  • Abfraction – when the enamel starts to sheer off along your gum line – leading to sensitivity and decay as the dentin (the softer layer of the tooth) is exposed. 

The solution to teeth grinding

Besides reducing stress, the easy solution for bruxism is wearing a nightguard at night to protect your teeth and your TMJ (jaw joints) from damage.

I know you’re probably thinking there’s no way you’re going to wear one of those bulky mouthguards to sleep. But no need to worry. These days, nightguards can be made with a minimal design that is much more comfortable than the older, bulkier designs.

Nightguards also help protect your investments – such as any cosmetic work like veneers and crowns.

I have to wear my nightguard every night, and I refuse to go to bed without it because I know how important it is for my well-being.

I recommend a proper custom-fit nightguard made by your dentist rather than a store-bought “boil-and-bite” that isn’t very effective and can worsen the problem.

Come in for an exam so we can recommend the best solution for your bruxism. If your TMJ issues are more severe, we can refer you to a TMJ specialist who can help.

How your diet affects your enamel

If you’re often eating foods that are hard to chew or high in acid and sugar, you’re increasing your risk for tooth wear and damage.

Sticky and hard treats are some of the worst offenders. So are Soda and other sugary beverages.

Other common habits like sucking on lemons, which are highly acidic, can erode your enamel away over time, making your teeth look more yellow.

And a history of bulimia or acid reflux can wreak havoc on your teeth due to repetitive acid exposure.

In some cases, veneers or crowns may be required to restore badly damaged teeth from erosion.


How your chewing habits affect your enamel

When you use your teeth as tools to open various things such as packages or nutshells, this can chip or fracture your teeth and wear your enamel down over time.

Chewing habits like chewing on ice, your nails, or pencils also weakens and wears down your teeth.

Remember, only use your teeth for what they are meant to do – eating and talking (and of course smiling).

Brushing – you can have too much of a good thing

It’s possible to “brush away” your teeth and gums when you overdo it and use too much force or improper technique.

It can wear away your enamel and even cause your gums to recede.

Remember, always use a soft toothbrush, never a hard one, and be thorough but gentle.

If you’re using an electric toothbrush, be even more careful not to use too much force. Let the toothbrush do most of the work for you.

Your diy teeth whitening could be damaging your enamel.

New teeth whitening fads, such as whitening pens, UV light kits, charcoal toothpaste, and DIY hacks like lemon juice and baking soda, that claim to whiten your teeth in a flash have become wildly popular.

But don’t fall for all the hype. First, do your research before using anything on your teeth.

Some of these products may not be approved by the ADA (American Dental Association) with long-term studies to ensure they won’t damage your enamel.

Many of these products may be unregulated and contain harsh chemicals and additives that erode your enamel.

I’m sure you’ve probably tried or thought about trying out the popular charcoal toothpaste. But although it may be harmless if you use it only once in a while, charcoal is very abrasive and can erode your enamel over time.

And popular home remedies like lemon juice and baking soda are highly acidic. They can cause acid erosion that makes your teeth appear more yellow over time as your enamel thins out, and the yellow dentin underneath peeks through. Let’s keep those whitening home remedies for our kitchen floors and counters instead. Shall we?

What’s the solution? Don’t risk your smile with just any type of teeth whitening product.

Stick with safe, proven methods to whiten your teeth that protect your enamel.

It’s easy. Just look for the ADA (American Dental Association) Seal of Acceptance when purchasing any dental or teeth whitening products to ensure its safety and efficacy.

And see us anytime for the best teeth whitening options for you that protect your teeth while providing lasting results.

Did you know? At Thrive Dental & Orthodontics, we provide complimentary custom whitening trays and professional whitening gel for our patients. So we’ve got all your whitening needs covered 😉


In summary, some of the most common daily habits we engage in may seem harmless but can irreversibly damage our teeth over time. 

Teeth grinding or clenching, a diet high in sugar or acid, our chewing habits, or using our teeth as tools, overbrushing, and using unsafe teeth whitening products or remedies all have one thing in common. They ruin your teeth.

And they put you at a higher risk of enamel loss and dentin exposure, which accelerates your teeth’s breakdown even more.

Our teeth are so precious. Without them, we can’t smile, eat, or talk. And we only get one set of permanent teeth to keep for the rest of our lives.

Let’s treat them with the care that will keep them strong and healthy for many years to come.

If you think you might suffer from damaged teeth, bruxism, or TMJ problems, we’re here to help. Come in today for a dental exam to help you end the cycle of teeth and jaw damage.

Call (972) 371-0616 or Book Now

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