Breaking Habits

It is often said that humans are creatures of habit. Behaviour can quickly become a habit – either good or bad, as the repetition of behavioural patterns are etched into neural pathways. Breaking bad habits can be challenging, even when it comes to your own health. A cold turkey approach to breaking habits often fails. A more effective method is using positive reinforcement and rewards for achieving incremental improvements. In terms of breaking bad habits – slow and steady usually wins the race.

In relation to dentistry – bad habits often include:

  • thumb sucking
  • nail biting
  • tongue thrust
  • mouth breathing
  • poor nutrition
  • inadequate oral hygiene
  • avoiding the dentist
  • heavy recreational drug use

Thumb Sucking
Children’s thumb sucking may appear innocent enough, but can create serious complications if not managed. During the mixed dentition phase where baby teeth are falling out and new adult teeth are forming, thumb sucking can lead to bite issues, asymmetrical teeth and jaws and breathing problems. As adult teeth erupt into a malocclusion or poor bite, they will often need orthodontics and plates to correct the teeth and bite. To break this habit, an educational approach can be beneficial – teaching children why sucking their thumb may be bad. Otherwise ask Laser + Holistic Dental about using dental materials to make the thumb sucking position uncomfortable for the child, deterring the behaviour.

Nail biting
Nail biting is commonly associated with anxiety or stress. It is a poor habit in terms of dental health due to the risks of transferring bacteria and other pathogens into the oral environment. Habitual nail biting can also affect the quality of your bite, potentially shifting teeth, wearing teeth down and weakening teeth over time. To avoid biting your nails, keep them trimmed short and consider using tape or bandaids to create a physical barrier as you break the behavioural pattern.

Tongue thrust
Tongue thrust is an orofacial muscular imbalance and behavioral pattern where the tongue protrudes through the front incisors during swallowing, speech, and while the tongue is at rest. Tongue thrust can have an impact on speech development, swallowing and muscle functions that can create malocclusions. This problem can be sometimes caused by being tongue tied – which can be easily fixed with a quick laser surgery procedure.

Mouth breathing
Mouth breathing is a sign of airway obstruction, commonly from a blocked nose or enlarged tonsils. Long term mouth breathing causes malocclusion or bite problems, as humans naturally should breathe through the nose. Chronic mouth breathers are also more at risk for periodontal diseases like gingivitis, as the mouth is dry lacking the natural protection of saliva. Mouth breathing can be reduced long term by developing the jaw and airways orthodontically to reduce obstructions.

Poor nutrition
Sugar and heavily processed carbohydrates like white bread are ideal food for bacteria that produce acid in the mouth and contribute to tooth decay. Avoiding these foods and adopting a diet based on fresh whole foods will improve your overall and oral health. For those with a sweet tooth it is best to use naturally derived sugar substitutes like xylitol, which also has a low glycaemic index. For advice on ideal nutrition please read more from the Weston Price Organisation here.

Oral hygiene
As commonly recommended by the dental profession, brushing twice and flossing daily is the minimum required to maintain good oral hygiene levels. Many mouthrinse products contain artificial colours, flavours and alcohol so are best avoided. Instead chew on a xylitol based mint or gum for fresh breath and to help neutralise acidity from tooth decay causing bacteria.

Avoiding the dentist
Avoidance of the dentist usually stems from fear, anxiety and a form of post traumatic stress disorder. These drivers of dental neglect can lead to poor oral hygiene and far more serous complications that could have been avoided with regular check ups and cleans. Laser + Holistic Dental believes in offering a calm, gentle and relaxing dental experience with happy gas and sedation available for those with extra anxiety. Talk to us about your concerns and remember that you must have the courage to address your oral health regularly to avoid potentially painful problems in the future.

Recreational drugs
Regular use of recreational drugs such as alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, ecstasy and cocaine can cause saliva dysfunction and increase risks of dental disease. This risk is also present for those with heavy dependencies on pharmaceutical drugs. Saliva dysfunction creates an ideal environment for bacteria and pathogens to contribute to serious dental disease. To reduce dependencies on such substances we recommend a non pharmaceutical approach favouring nutritional support, lasers and laser acupuncture, hypnosis or homeopathics.