Is kicking bad habits part of your New Years Resolution? Recently, the American Dental Association's blog released a list of some of the worst habits for your teeth. While many of these ticks may seem harmless, they can all cause permanent damage to your teeth, gums or jaw muscles. Over time, these can become very expensive problems- requiring everything from crowns to gum surgery. Take a look at some of the worst offenders and how to manage them!

1. Nail Biting- On top of being unhygienic (your fingernails harbor an entire ecosystem of bacteria), nail biting forces the teeth and jaw to function in ways that they were never designed to. Under repeated stress, the front teeth will crack and chip easily. Even crowns and fillings can become repeatedly damaged. Additionally, protruding your lower jaw to make the front teeth connect puts unneeded strain on your muscles. Consider wearing a bitter tasting nail polish or lotion to put a stop to the biting!

2. Hard/Rigorous Brushing- Many people believe that using generous force and scrubbing the teeth/gums can compensate for a shorter brush time. On the contrary, brushing your teeth too hard will wear away at the teeth and enamel prematurely. Even if you can't brush for a whole two minutes, stick to a gentle pressure. If possible, invest in an electric toothbrush that has a built in pressure sensor like certain Oral-B and Sonicare models. 

3. Grinding and Clenching- These habits typically occur subconsciously or while you are asleep, which makes them more difficult to manage. Unfortunately, our jaw muscles develop a tremendous amount of force which can erode or completely shatter enamel. The best way to manage these habits is by treating stress directly. Try meditation, exercise or any other calming techniques. If you still can't stop clenching, custom night guards will protect your teeth from fracturing while lessening tension headaches.

4. Chewing Ice Cubes- While Ice breaks easily under the force of our teeth, it is a very hard substance. Repeatedly crushing ice with your teeth will break cusps, loosen fillings and even fracture crowns. Your best bet is to chill your beverages without ice or use a straw to avoid temptation. 

5. Snacking- Tooth decay relies on three things: bacteria, sugar/carbohydrate and time. When you constantly graze on food, you are increasing the amount of time your oral bacteria can feed and cause decay. While the best option is to avoid snacking all together, you can mitigate damage by switching to non-sticky foods with low sugar content. 

6. Using Teeth as Tools- Always a bad idea. Your mouth was designed for speaking, eating and breathing, not opening plastic bags. Take some extra time and avoid using your mouth as a third hand!