Tooth-fairy tales are favorites among young children, but myths and misconceptions about dentistry are abundant in adult circles as well. How well can you decipher fact from fiction? These common misconceptions often begin with a grain of truth, but they quickly depart…creating unreasonable anxiety and potentially serious consequences, so it’s always a good idea to check your facts with a professional.
Myth: Too much sugar causes tooth decay.
The fact is that limiting sugar intake is a good idea, but the amount of sugar that you eat or drink is not nearly as important as the amount of time that the sugar has contact with the teeth. Oral bacteria consume sugar and produce acids that dissolve the tooth enamel, so slowly-dissolving candies and sweet drinks like soda or juice that are sipped over long periods of time are particularly problematic because they increase the amount of time teeth are exposed to the acid. Your best bet is to consume carbohydrates (like cookies and bread), or sweet drinks and foods all at once. Then rinse with water or better yet, brush your teeth. A small piece of cheese after a meal has also been shown to neutralize harmful acids in the mouth.
Myth: Losing baby teeth to tooth decay is okay.
It is a common myth that losing baby teeth due to tooth decay is not important, because baby teeth fall out anyway. Sometimes a dentist will delay fixing a small cavity in a baby tooth, especially if a child is close to the age when the tooth will be lost anyway. This practice spares the child unnecessary pain and anxiety. However, the fact is that untreated cavities in baby teeth can result in damage to the developing crowns of the permanent teeth, and if baby teeth are lost too soon, the permanent teeth may not erupt correctly and a child may require braces to correct his bite. Your best bet is to prevent problems altogether, or at the very least identify them early. Ensure regular checkups for your child beginning as soon as his teeth erupt.
Myth: Dental decay is only a young person’s problem.
Generally adults are more conscientious about their homecare; but the fact is anyone can be at risk for getting a cavity. Receding gums are common in older adults, and the condition can result in cavities developing on the exposed roots of teeth. Frequently prescribed medications like antidepressants, diuretics, blood pressure medications, and antihistamines cause a dry mouth which increases the risk of tooth decay. . . Just like children, adults should know their risk factors: limit sugar intake, use fluoride toothpaste, and visit the dentist for regular checkups.
Myth: Brushing my teeth with a medium or hard brush will do a better job.
Always use a soft toothbrush to avoid damage to the gums and teeth. The fact is that a correct technique is far more effective than aggressive brushing… remember that the material you are trying to remove is soft. Once it hardens, you cannot remove it with a tooth brush anyway. Your tooth enamel is resilient, and you can safely brush it after every meal as long as you are gentle. People who use an electric or ultrasonic brush should use extra caution, because these can be destructive when used improperly. Get individual instructions from your dental professional!
Myth: I shouldn’t brush (or floss) my teeth if my gums bleed.
Bleeding is never a good sign, and the fact is that it is most often the result of plaque (bacteria) which is not properly removed by regular brushing and flossing. Instead of avoiding the area, which makes the problem worse, your best bet is make an extra effort to brush and floss gently twice a day and visit your dental professional to be evaluated. Persistently bleeding Gums that bleed persistently even when oral hygiene is adequate may signal an underlying medical problem and you should seek medical advice.
Myth: Teeth whitening will damage my enamel.
Whitening can improve almost everyone’s smile, but the fact is that there is a right and wrong way to use them and they are not appropriate for everyone. However, when used according to manufacturer’s directions, they are safe and effective and can be used with confidence.
Myth: A dental checkup is necessary every six months.
Twice a year is a common interval and is effective for many people. However, the fact is that frequency of your checkups depends on many factors including your ability to take care of your teeth and gums, whether you have had periodontal disease, and your history of cavities. The dentist and hygienist will make an individual recommendation for you based on your particular needs.
Myth: Bad breath is only caused by not brushing your teeth properly.
The fact is thatmost breath odor is caused by poor oral hygiene; however, smoking, certain foods and sometimes an underlying disease such as diabetes can make your breath smell bad. If you are brushing and flossing consistently and breath odor is a persistent problem, see the dentist for an evaluation. You may also wish to consult your family doctor to rule out a medical condition.
Myth: Bad teeth run in my family.
The fact is that genetics do play a role in how susceptible you may be to oral disease; and there are certain rare inherited disorders that cause abnormally brittle or deficient tooth enamel. However, in the vast majority of cases poor oral hygiene and dental plaque are the real cause of cavities and gum disease. It is true that problems “run in families”… After all, children learn to care for their teeth from their parents- and not all parents place a high priority on dental care. Ultimately whether or not your teeth are healthy depends mostly upon your behavior, not your genetics.
Myth: Dentures will be easier than caring for my teeth
While dentures are an important option for people who have lost their teeth, they are not without their own set of challenges. Over time, the bone that supported your natural teeth will begin to dissolve away, making it difficult to maintain a good denture fit. Even the best fitting dentures will take time to get used to and will never be quite as good as the teeth Mother Nature made. Dentures may help resolve pain and other issues when the natural teeth are badly diseased or decayed; but the fact is that dentures also predispose a person to mouth sores, and an upper denture may affect the way your food feels and tastes in your mouth because it covers the palate. Dentures- and the mouth that they are worn in require regular maintenance, just like natural teeth and they are really best reserved for a last resort.
Myth: It’s easier to extract a tooth than to save it.
The truth is that an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure! Bone dissolves around the place where a tooth has been lost; this changes the shape of the jaw and can affect the way the remaining teeth fit together. Replacement of a lost tooth may require placement of a bridge, which will most likely need to be remade at least once. Implants are an excellent replacement option, but a surgical procedure is necessary. An extraction may seem like a simple, inexpensive solution for a tooth that is causing a problem but the fact is that almost always, it is less expensive and less complicated in the long run to prevent tooth loss.
Myth: The Tooth Fairy collects children’s lost baby teeth and leaves a gift in exchange.
Fact… of course!
Don’t rely on “word-of-mouth” when it comes to your oral health. There are many trustworthy sources for checking up on oral health facts, including the American Dental Association, your dental professional team and of course, the six year old with the quarter under his pillow!