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 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 manufactures 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!
Braces are for teenagers: FALSE. It’s really never too late for braces as long as you’re healthy, your doctor believes you may benefit, and you’re ready to undergo the process. Age is just a number as they say!
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.
Getting older means losing teeth: FALSE. Believe it or not, plenty of people leave this beautiful planet with all of their adult teeth still in their head. Growing older does not mean your teeth have to fall out in the process. Barring physical complications or trauma, if you take care of them and see the dentist regularly, they’ll tend to stick around.
Gum recession is normal: FALSE.
Unfortunately to most, gum recession is considered to be a normal part of aging. Even the expression “long in the tooth” stems from the age-old story that as we get older, our gum line tends to recede and expose more of the surface of our teeth. But there really is nothing “normal” about gum recession, and for most of us, it can actually be prevented. Read more.
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. The 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.