You brush. You floss. You go to the dentist every 6 months. But some other dental habits could be taking a toll on your teeth and gums.

Save your smile by avoiding these bad dental habits.

Using the wrong toothbrush

A brush with medium or firm bristles can irritate the gums and lead to sensitive teeth. Soft bristled toothbrushes aren’t only gentler—they can also bend to clean under the gums. If you’re using a medium or firm bristled brush, start using a soft bristled manual or electric brush that carries the American Dental Association® (ADA) Seal of Acceptance.

Brushing too hard

The pressure of brushing too hard can wear down tooth enamel and irritate your gums. Plaque is soft and loose, so it only needs a gentle scrubbing to be cleaned away.

Using a toothpick

Toothpicks are a simple teeth-cleaning device. However, they can also cut up your gums, wear down tooth enamel and damage veneers and crowns. Instead, choose safer and more effective options like dental floss and water flossers.

Grinding your teeth

Teeth grinding, or bruxism, affects up to 1 in 3 adults during the day and over 1 in 10 adults during sleep1. Dentists aren’t exactly sure what causes teeth grinding, but they do know it can cause flattened, chipped and loose teeth. Night guards are a great way to stop the damage. For more treatment options, explore this article on bruxism.

Drinking acidic beverages

Coffee, soda, fruit juices and sports drinks are acidic and can dissolve tooth enamel. Even worse, if you brush your teeth right after drinking something acidic, you may rub away the softened enamel. Try to avoid these drinks altogether, but if you do have one, use a straw to minimize contact with your teeth and rinse your mouth with water afterward.

Eating sugary foods

Good nutrition plays a big role in preventing cavities and tooth decay. Bacteria in your mouth feed on sugar to create acids that destroy tooth enamel. The more sugary foods you eat, the longer your teeth are exposed to these harmful acids. If you have a sweet tooth and need healthier food suggestions, add these foods that are good for your teeth to your shopping list before your next grocery run.

Overusing teeth whitening strips

Whitening strips can be an easy way to a brighter smile. But if you use them too often or leave them on too long, you could cause tooth sensitivity, tooth damage and gum irritation. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and if you’re worried about teeth whitening at home, talk to your dentist about professional in-office teeth whitening.

Using your teeth as a tool

Teeth were made to chew food, not to clip fingernails, unscrew a cap or open a bag of chips. The awkward pressure and twisting of these actions can lead to damaged fillings, chipped teeth or worse. Although it may be convenient to use your teeth as a tool, reach for the nail clippers, pliers or scissors instead.

Humana offers dental plans

If you’re looking for dental insurance, Humana can help. We offer a broad range of dental plans with varying levels of coverage, many with affordable monthly premiums. Some of our plans also feature no waiting periods, which means you could get covered in about 5 days. To see plans and prices in your area, check out our Humana dental insurance page.

  1. “Teeth Grinding: Causes, Treatments and Consequences,” Cedars Sinai, last accessed November 19, 2021,, opens new window.

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