Lots of kids (and adults) use their teeth to open things. Maybe there are no scissors handy, or maybe their hands just aren’t strong enough to rip open a package without help. Whatever the reason, this seemingly harmless habit is a bad idea and can follow many children into adulthood.

Teeth are precious. Once they’re damaged, it’s hard to restore them, and the way your child treats their teeth today will become their long-term habits when they’re an adult. If you’ve noticed your child opening things with their teeth, here’s why and how you should get them to stop.

Why Using Teeth as Tools Is a Bad Idea

First of all, why is it so harmful to open packages with your teeth? Your teeth are meant for chewing food. It might be convenient to rip open a plastic bag or snip a thread with your teeth, but over time, this can damage your enamel and chip or crack your teeth. It’s even riskier to use your teeth on hard objects, like bottle caps or other hard plastics.

Making a habit of using your teeth as tools usually results in tooth damage or even surgery sooner or later. As a parent, it’s crucial for you to help your child avoid this by teaching them good habits early in life.

How to Get Your Child to Stop Opening Things with Their Teeth

Kids are smart, but they aren’t known for always listening when parents tell them to do things. That said, you should still talk to your kids about why it’s a bad idea to open things with their teeth. Emphasize the potential negative consequences, like cracked teeth, sensitivity, worn down enamel, and chips. A small dose of worry might be enough to break the bad habit in some children.

Do your best to make sure your children have easy ways of opening things, too. If your children are old enough, they might enjoy carrying a small multi-tool that includes scissors and a bottle opener. Also, ask your kids to bring packages to you if they can’t get them open, rather than resorting to using their teeth.

Your children depend on you to set them up with good habits for the rest of their life, so don’t turn a blind eye if you notice they’re opening things with their teeth. Take steps now to stop this bad habit in its tracks. Your kids will thank you for it later!