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The Effects of Biting Your Nails

March 17th, 2021

Also known as onchophagia, the habit of nail biting is one of the so-called “nervous habits” that can be triggered by stress, excitement, or boredom. Approximately half of all kids between the ages of ten and 18 have been nail biters at one time or another. Experts say that about 30 percent of children and 15 percent of adults are nail biters, however most people stop chewing their nails by the time they turn 30.

Here are four dental and general reasons to stop biting your nails:

1. It’s unsanitary: Your nails harbor bacteria and germs, and are almost twice as dirty as fingers. What’s more, swallowing dirty nails can lead to stomach problems.

2. It wears down your teeth: Gnawing your nails can put added stress on your pearly whites, which can lead to crooked teeth.

3. It can delay your orthodontic treatment: For those of our patients wearing braces, nail biting puts additional pressure on teeth and weakens roots.

4. It can cost you, literally: It has been estimated that up to $4,000 in extra dental bills can build up over a lifetime.

Dr. Harmon and our team recommend the following to kick your nail biting habit:

  • Keep your nails trimmed short; you’ll have less of a nail to bite.
  • Coat your nails with a bitter-tasting nail polish.
  • Ask us about obtaining a mouthguard, which can help prevent nail biting.
  • Put a rubber band around your wrist and snap it whenever you get the urge to gnaw on your nails.
  • Think about when and why you chew your nails. Whether you are nervous or just bored, understanding the triggers can help you find a solution and stop the habit.
  • If you can’t stop, behavioral therapy may be an effective option to stop nail biting. Ask Dr. Harmon and our team for a recommendation.

When It Come to Chewing Gum, Be Choosy!

March 10th, 2021

Why do you chew gum? Perhaps because it’s a habit that comes with some healthy benefits. Chewing a stick or two reduces the urge to snack between meals. It’s a substitute for behaviors like nail biting that you’d like to change. It might even give you fresher breath after those tuna sandwiches in the cafeteria.

And, as it happens, chewing sugarless gum actually offers a few dental benefits as well! The act of chewing increases saliva production. Saliva washes away food particles, neutralizes acids in the mouth that can damage enamel, and even bathes the teeth in essential minerals that help strengthen weakened enamel. We’re talking about sugar-free gum here, of course, because regular gum will just bathe your teeth in sugar—no one’s idea of a dental benefit!

So why not open that pack and enjoy? Because, despite the many positive reasons you can think of for chewing gum, sometimes gum can have a negative impact on your braces.

  • A Sticky Situation

Keeping your braces clean can be a bit of a challenge. That’s why you have special toothbrushes, flosses, and interproximal brushes to get rid of food particles that stick around after you eat. And, while any food can get caught in your braces, sugared gum, because it is so sticky, can stick to appliances much more easily and much more thoroughly than even sugar-free gum. You might be able to remove gum residue with regular brushing and flossing, but, worst case scenario, you might be looking at gum firmly stuck in the brackets or between the brackets and wires.

  • Gumming Up the Works

Chewing gum can also affect your treatment time if the action of chewing causes your arch wire to bend. When your wire isn’t providing the proper shape or the right amount of tension, your teeth won’t get to where they need to be as quickly and efficiently. No piece of gum is worth discovering at your next appointment that you haven’t made any progress for weeks due to a damaged wire. And since chewing gum can also lead to loose brackets and bands, you might wonder if this sticky habit is ever worth the trouble it can cause.

  • Something to Chew Over

Before you decide, talk to Dr. Harmon! Chewing sugarless gum increases saliva production, which can help wash away food particles from your mouth and your braces. As an added benefit, the action of chewing for a few minutes after an appointment has been shown to reduce the discomfort of an adjustment. Because today’s braces are stronger and more durable, and sugarless gum much less likely to stick to them, we can let you know if chewing gum might be acceptable or even desirable depending on your specific treatment plan and your appliance.

Talk to us at your next appointment at our Sugar Land, Texas office about gum chewing, and we’ll give you the very best recommendations for keeping your teeth healthy, your braces clean, your appliance intact, and your treatment plan on track. Even if gum needs to be off the menu for a while, what you’ll get in return—the best and fastest path to your beautiful smile—will be well worth it!

How Often Should You Brush?

February 24th, 2021

If you’ve been following your dentist’s advice, you know that you should be devoting two minutes twice a day to gentle, thorough brushing, and floss carefully at least once a day. It’s automatic. It’s habit. You’re in the zone. Now that you have braces or aligners, though, it’s time to step up your game!

Removing Food Particles

No one wants to worry about food particles stuck in braces right after lunch—or, worse, noticed hours after lunch! Because food tends to stick around brackets and wires, Dr. Harmon and our Sugar Land, Texas team recommend brushing after a meal. Not only will you be confident in your smile, you’ll be improving your dental health.

But why?

Better Plaque Removal

Plaque is a sticky film containing acid-producing bacteria. These acids lead to weakened enamel and, eventually, cavities. Careful brushing with a fluoride toothpaste helps eliminate plaque. But as you may have discovered, it can be more difficult to clean around brackets and wires. Brushing after eating will help keep plaque from forming on your enamel, and using the right tools (floss made for braces and interproximal brushes) will help clean plaque more effectively.

But what about aligners?

If you wear clear aligners, you take them out when you eat. This avoids the problem of food particles trapped in brackets and difficulty brushing around wires. But this doesn’t mean you are home free. Brushing after every meal is also a good idea when you wear aligners.

Our teeth have an organic way to help remove food particles, acids, and bacteria between brushings—saliva! Your aligners, while covering your teeth, decrease their exposure to saliva. It’s really important, then, to make sure you brush after eating. Otherwise, food particles and acids can remain on your teeth after you replace your aligners, increasing the risk of enamel erosion and decay.

Brushing helps keep your aligners clear as well. If you notice aligner discoloration, this could be the result of food residue such as tomato sauce or coffee that remained on the teeth after a meal. Anything that stains your enamel can stain your aligners. And don’t forget about plaque. Plaque can stick not only to your enamel but to your aligners as well. If you notice that your aligners are cloudy, or have an unpleasant odor, talk to us about the best way to keep them their cleanest.

Make a Plan

So, what can you do to make brushing more convenient during a busy day? Be prepared! Keep a small kit with you containing a travel brush, a small tube of toothpaste, floss, and an interproximal brush for quick cleanings when you’re out and about, and you’ll never have to worry about your smile.

Of course, there are occasions when it’s just not possible to brush. At times like this, whether you have traditional braces or aligners, it’s a good idea to rinse well with water after meals or snacks, and brush as soon as you can.

Start your new dental routine now, and soon it will be automatic. An everyday habit. Your new comfort zone. After all, taking a few extra minutes from your day to brush after every meal will be well worth it when you end your orthodontic treatment with a smile that is as healthy as it is beautiful!

Braces-Friendly Foods

February 17th, 2021

Having braces can be frustrating when you have to be cautious about eating certain foods or having to avoid them altogether. Making sure your braces don’t bend or break is vital when you’re trying to straighten your teeth quickly and properly. Dr. Harmon and our team have come up with a list of foods to avoid, and which foods you can enjoy while you have braces.

No matter how careful you are, excessive chewing of hard-to-eat foods will eventually cause problems for you and your braces. Knowing what you can and cannot eat at a meal may be helpful when you first get your braces on.

Some foods are too hard for braces, because they can break wires or create damage that will have to be fixed by Dr. Harmon. Avoiding the following snacks will prevent this from occurring:

  • Hard candies
  • Gum
  • Nuts
  • Popcorn
  • Some hard raw vegetables or fruits (carrots, apples)
  • Ice
  • Chips

There are plenty of safe options for breakfast. They include eggs, yogurt, pancakes, oatmeal, soft toast, bananas, and even bacon.

For lunch, avoid hard or abrasive foods, undercooked vegetables, or apples. Safer options include a delicious stew, soft-breaded deli sandwich, or a mixed salad. Always be careful when biting into foods, and try to cut solid meal items into small chewable portions whenever possible.

A healthy braces-friendly dinner can come in many forms. Soft, steamed vegetables paired with a lean protein make a great option. The addition of rice or quinoa can complete the meal. Just remember to brush and floss after, because these small grains are likely to get stuck between braces and teeth.

During your treatment, Dr. Harmon will tighten your braces at each checkup. Braces tightening can sometimes leave your teeth feeling sore afterward. During this time, we recommend picking soft food options until the pain goes away, such as:

  • Pudding
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Soup
  • Ice cream
  • Cottage cheese
  • Peas
  • Pasta
  • Yogurt
  • Muffins

It’s also essential to pay close attention to your oral health routine. When food is stuck between braces, you’re more likely to experience plaque and decay buildup. If you want to keep your teeth from appearing discolored when your braces come off, keep up with brushing and flossing after every meal!

If you notice your braces are damaged after you’ve eaten a meal, contact our Sugar Land, Texas office to schedule an appointment right away. Our team is here to help with any issues that come up while you are in braces, and to answer any questions you may have about which foods you can and cannot eat.

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