Most people recognize several common factors that lead to tooth damage. If you don't brush or floss, you teeth may decay and cause expensive cavities. Sports players often face injuries to the mouth that chip or knock out teeth. These examples may seem extreme, but teeth are more fragile than we realize.

How we care for our teeth now affects the health and look of our smiles later in life. Take a look the following ways you may put your teeth at risk without even knowing it.

Nervous Gnawing

If you chew on pencils when you feel nervous, you may not mind the faint taste of lead in your mouth. But your teeth will mind. Biting on pencils, pens, bottle caps, and other hard items can break your teeth. These habits also damage dental work already in your mouth.

The same principle applies to nail biting. When you bite your nails, you move your teeth and jaw out of proper alignment and damages your teeth.

If stress or boredom hits, try some healthy crackers, carrot sticks, or a piece of sugar-free gum to keep your jaw occupied.

Coffee & Wine

Two of the major culprits for bad teeth stains include coffee and red wine. While white wine isn't dark in color as its red counterpart, it contributes to teeth staining as well. The acid in wine also erodes enamel, making teeth more susceptible to stains from other foods and drinks.

Smoking

Smoking can introduce an array of harmful side effects to your overall health. Besides increasing your risk for mouth and lung cancer, smoking causes gum disease, and the tobacco content stains teeth.

Grinding Teeth

Tooth grinding (also called bruxism) often occurs when you feel stressed or even when you sleep. Some people do not realize when they grind or clench their teeth. In severe cases, bruxism wears down teeth and hurts the jaw.

If you suffer from bruxism, discuss your sleep habits with your dentist and ask if a mouth guard might help.

Mouth Piercings

Though popular, mouth piercings can damage teeth and gums. Mouth piercings increase your risk of infection in the mouth. The rubbing of piercings against gums can wear down and weaken gum tissue. And a bite down onto a metal stud can break your tooth.

Lots of Soda

Soda may taste delicious and refreshing, but it is far from good for your teeth. The sugar in regular soda can sit on your teeth's surface and cause decay. And diet soda proves just as harmful: even though diet sodas boast alternative sweeteners, the acidity of any soda  eats tooth enamel away. Eroded enamel leaves exposed and rough patches on teeth that are more likely to catch food and stains.

Too Much Lemon

If you enjoy eating or sucking lemons, you may want to find a less acidic fruit to enjoy. The acids in lemons break down the enamel on your teeth so your teeth are less protected from stains and decay. The erosion also roughens the surface of your teeth.

Toothpicks

When you have a corn kernel or a chunk of meat in your teeth, your mouth itches for relief. Don't reach so fast for those wooden toothpicks, though. Hard toothpicks actually damage teeth and gums when you use them to remove trapped food.

Hard toothpicks grind away parts of your tooth enamel and damage gum tissue. As an alternative, opt for flexible soft toothpicks or floss to remove food from between your teeth.

Ice, Ice, Ice

Many people relish the refreshing satisfaction of crunching on ice. But hard ice can break your teeth with every bite. Instead, try a fruit popsicle or semi-frozen fruit chunks for a soothing, cold treat.

Opening Containers With Teeth

No scissors handy? Many people use their own teeth to open bottles or packaging and to the tear off plastic tags from purchased items. The extra pressure from ripping something open with your mouth can actually cause chips and cracks in your teeth.

Save your teeth the stress, and find scissors or another method to open things.

If you regularly do any of the above habits, you might not doom your beautiful smile. The key is to take care of your mouth. Avoid doing things that place too much strain on your teeth and gums. Choose healthy foods and drinks, and brush your teeth well after you consume sugary, acidic, or staining beverages.

 If you have any questions about your at-home dental care, ask your dentist for guidance.