Ask the Dentist: 'What Are Some Common Dental Myths?'
Myth-busting! It’s not just for television. Given all of the misinformation that exists online and among friends and family, we thought we’d take a stab at some of the more pervasive myths related to oral health. So, whether they’re related to the food and drink you consume, the good and bad habits you foist upon your mouth, or the bevy of over-the-counter cosmetic and functional smile-fixes that exist in the marketplace, we’re here to set the record straight!
A hard brush is better: FALSE.
A hard-bristled brush is often more appropriate for cleaning your house than it is your teeth. Dentists and hygienists recommend a soft- or medium-bristled brush because most of us brush too hard as it is. Aggressive brushing is destructive to gum tissue and enamel; a soft-bristled brush can save you from brushing your gums away. Contrary to popular belief, plaque is soft. That stuff your dentist or hygienist is scraping away with the sharpest metal tool in the toolbox isn’t for plaque, that’s for tartar – the result of not removing plaque. SO, you don’t need a hard-bristled brush to disturb it from your teeth!
“Why are they even available, then?” you might wonder. The simple truth is, product manufacturers create products where a demand exists, and as long as people believe a hard-bristled brush is better, you’ll still be able to find them on the shelves. No doubt, however, you’re noticing their numbers decline – and you’ll never know how many people DO buy them to scrub their grout, tools and sinks!
My kid doesn’t really eat a lot of sugar: MAYBE.
We’d all like to think our kids are eating squeaky clean, but we also know birthday treats and traded lunch items sneak in here and there. There’s also juice, fruit and grains – carbohydrates that do affect the teeth. So, remember, carbs are sugar, sugar is carbs, and you’ll be able to perform the mental calculations necessary to understand sugar consumption. Now, we’re not saying you need to switch up your entire meal plan here, just know what’s what.
Cavities are caused by too much sugar: FALSE.
Surprise! Cavities are largely caused by exposure to acid. When we think about what causes cavities, most of us naturally think about sugar. However, it’s important to understand it isn’t the sugar itself that destroys your teeth, it’s the digestion of that sugar by certain bacteria in the mouth that does the damage. The final result of that digestion process is a byproduct you won’t be surprised by: acid.
So, basically, think of avoiding sugar as essentially avoiding acid, and you’ll be thinking about sugar as it relates to your teeth in the proper fashion.
Sugar-free soda is okay for your teeth: FALSE.
That darn acid again! Phosphoric acid, citric acid, tartaric acid are often found in diet sodas … and they’re not good for your teeth.
Bleeding gums are normal: FALSE.
Everyone’s gums bleed, right? Well, not really. If you’re not a regular flosser or are a semi-regular brusher, bleeding will be a consequence of these behaviors, and thus seem “normal” to you. However, it's not normal for your gums to bleed. The typical cause is gum disease – no matter how minor. Gum disease is an infection of the gums and bone that support teeth. It usually starts early in life and progresses as a person ages. It all starts when plaque hardens into tartar (also called calculus) below the gum line. This irritates vulnerable soft tissues and infection can set in. Combined with decaying food particles lodged between teeth and bacteria emitted by plaque, the infection can spread quickly. Symptoms are so mild in the early phase that many patients don't recognize them: red, tender, swollen gums, bleeding when brushing teeth, slight discomfort while chewing hard foods.
As the condition progresses, gums recede from teeth and pockets of bacteria form. The bacteria can destroy gum tissue and bone, causing tooth and bone loss. he more you brush and floss (most importantly floss), the better your gums will look and feel, and the less (if at all!) they’ll bleed.
George Washington had wooden teeth: FALSE.
Our first president’s teeth were actually a mix of cow and human teeth as well as ivory. And that’s despite George paying a lot of attention to his teeth! Washington is known to have cleaned his teeth daily with "tooth powder" and had a total of nine dentists throughout his life. His problems were due to treatments with mercurous chloride when he had malaria and smallpox earlier in life. The chemical is destructive to teeth and led to his need for the dentures we're all familiar with today. George was, however, a steadfast fan of oral care. Were he alive today, he’d likely have a marvelous set of pearly whites.
Cavities are not contagious: FALSE (conditionally).
While cavities themselves aren’t contagious, the bacteria that causes cavities are. How? By sharing you’re your spoon with another. Or, kissing, or anything really where saliva from your mouth comes in contact with someone else’s mouth. It might be helpful to demonstrate it’s okay to eat creamed asparagus to your child by first eating that nasty stuff yourself, but by turning the spoon back to them, you’re unwittingly sharing your mouth bacteria along with the lesson. You're best off using your own spoon and then doing a little slight-of-hand-swicheroo.
My kids will never floss: FALSE.
There are three steps to developing a good flossing routine. Make it easy. Make it fun. And do it correctly. To make it easy, simply leave the floss container on the countersink for your child to see each time they use the bathroom throughout the day. The constant visual reminder, and keeping the floss at arm's length will definitely make a difference. Make it fun. Surely, it's impossible to add an element of “fun” to an oral care routine, right? You'd be surprised how much a timer or brushing to one song on the radio can help!