Child see, child do. Kids are great at modeling our behavior. That’s why it’s important to model good habits when it comes to oral hygiene. When your child sees you engaging in bad habits, he may be more likely to copy them. Here are some bad oral health habits to watch out for so you don’t pass them on to the next generation:

Skipping brushing after meals…

You tell your child all the time how important it is to brush after meals. If that’s true, then why don’t you do it? Get into the habit and make a point to tell your child that you’re going to brush your teeth. Your child needs to know that this is something you do regularly, especially after sugary snacks and drinks.

…And forgetting the floss

Ditto for flossing. Your child needs to see that you floss and that you do it regularly.

Sharing your toothbrush

Sharing is a lesson we want to teach our children – except when it comes to toothbrushes! Your child should know that it’s never ok to share toothbrushes with anyone else. So don’t get caught doing it.

Using a gross, old toothbrush

Has your toothbrush seen better days? Are the bristles are worn down and splayed? No good. Not only are frayed bristles not effective at cleaning, they may actually hurt the enamel. Plus, an old toothbrush may harbor gross bacteria… so instead of making teeth cleaner, you’re making them filthier.

Don’t let your little one see you using an old toothbrush. If your toothbrush is old, it’s time for a replacement.

Biting your fingernails

There are lots of reasons not to chew on your fingernails. First off, it makes your fingernails look raggedy. It’s also a great way to bring nasty bacteria from dirty hands straight into your mouth. Finally, it’s bad for your teeth! The constant stress from frequent nail biting can lead to chips and cracks. Break the habit.

Chewing on pens, pencils, etc.

Your teeth are for chewing food and gum, not pens, pen caps, pencils, straws, etc. Using your teeth for things it wasn’t designed for can cause hairline cracks, wear away at the tooth surface, and even cause broken teeth.

Skip the ice, too – yes, it’s food, but it can cause cracked and chipped teeth and can damage the dental work you have, like fillings and crowns. (Note that excessive ice chewing is a sign of anemia, or low blood iron. If you chew ice and can’t stop, talk to your doctor about the possibility of low iron levels.)

Using teeth as a tool

Don’t let your child see you ripping open packages or tearing off tags with your teeth. Take the time to go get scissors or a knife and use the tool that was made for the job. As with the point above, using your teeth in a way they weren’t intended can cause damage.

Eating lots of sweets

Sugary snacks, chocolates, caramels… you don’t want your child eating too many of these things, so why are you eating them? As you know, the sugar left on your teeth after eating sweet snacks leads to cavities. (Technically, the sugars feed the bacteria in your mouth that produce the acid that eats away at the enamel. But the end result is the same.)

Smoking

There are many reasons you don’t want your child to smoke, including the health risks, the money, and the smell. Add bad oral health to that list. Smoking is actually very bad for your oral health, and not just because it’s associated with an increase in mouth, throat, and larynx cancers. It’s also a cause of bad breath, discolored teeth, and gum disease. If you still smoke, try to quit – for your sake, and your child’s.

Get into good habits and break your bad habits. After all, when it comes to encouraging good oral health habits in your child, the best thing you can do is be a good role model.