Preventative dentistry is no stranger to dental myths.
The best way you can maintain great oral health and save money on dental costs is simply to focus on prevention. At a glance, the internet has made finding the right dentist and learning about good oral hygiene practices more accessible, which should make preventing dental issues easier. Unfortunately, the internet contains just as many misconceptions about dentistry as it does facts, and it can be hard to figure out which information is genuine. We’ve decided to debunk a few common myths (like the one about dental fluoride) and discuss the facts below.
Dental fluoride is bad for my health.
Over the course of 70 years, scientists around the world have performed thousands of studies on the benefits and health effects of fluoride. The overwhelming conclusion is that fluoride is safe; it’s even played a vital role in improving the oral health of Americans. Fluoridated water is proven to help build strong teeth in children, strengthen enamel, and prevent cavities. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that fluoride has reduced cavities by about 25% in America. In rare cases where someone does receive too much dental fluoride, it usually doesn’t cause pain or long-lasting damage, but children may develop harmless white spots on their adult teeth.
I just have “soft teeth.”
When people are diagnosed with a cavity, it’s common for them to blame their “soft teeth.” Many even mention that the trait runs in their family. But is there any truth to this statement? No—at least not in the way that people often think. Conditions that cause soft teeth do exist, but they’re rare and easily recognizable. People who claim to have soft teeth have simply fallen for a common misconception; their teeth are almost always normal. There is a reason that cavities tend to run in families, however: cavities are infectious. When you share food and drinks with a family member or kiss your spouse or young child, cavity-causing bacteria can hitch a ride to their mouth. Thankfully, you can counteract this by ensuring everyone in your family stays on top of their oral hygiene.
Cavities are only caused by sugar.
When it comes to causing cavities, sugar is definitely a concern—but it’s certainly not the only cause of cavities. Carbohydrates like bread or chips are also major culprits because they stick to your teeth and quickly break down into sugar, creating a long-lasting feeding frenzy for cavity-causing bacteria.
Another major culprit is your eating habits; grazing on small snacks throughout the day is actually a lot worse for your teeth because it provides a constant source of food for the bacteria in your mouth. There isn’t a chance for your saliva to flush out food debris and bring your mouth’s acidity level back down to normal. You can avoid this by drinking more water and sticking to a single, healthier snack each day.
Cavities in baby teeth aren’t a big deal.
It’s easy to see how you might think that cavities in baby teeth aren’t a big deal. After all, baby teeth will just fall out eventually anyway, right? The truth is that baby teeth play an essential role in helping permanent teeth to come in properly, so healthy baby teeth are important to your child’s long-term oral health. If baby teeth fall out too early due to decay, their permanent teeth might not come in quite right, resulting in overcrowded or crooked teeth that may require extensive orthodontic treatment. As a result, it’s important to take your child to the dentist as soon as their first tooth erupts and to start them on a good oral hygiene routine right away.
The harder I brush, the cleaner and healthier my teeth will be.
When we clean a kitchen counter or carpet, we scrub as hard as we can to get up all the dirt and grime, leaving the surface as good as new. It’s easy to transfer this mentality to brushing your teeth, but it’s actually a bad idea. Scrubbing your teeth too hard when you brush them is called over-brushing—and it can damage your oral health, resulting in enamel erosion and receding gums, which in turn makes your teeth vulnerable to decay and causes tooth and gum sensitivity. Instead, you should brush your teeth gently twice a day for two minutes each time using a soft-bristled toothbrush to avoid damaging your enamel. Brushing your teeth properly relies on being thorough and taking your time to get your teeth clean—not pure scrubbing power.
Flossing isn’t that important.
The truth is that while flossing isn’t popular—one survey found that only about a third of Americans reported daily flossing—it’s incredibly important for your oral health. Brushing your teeth is vital, but it simply can’t remove plaque from the sides of your teeth. If you don’t floss, you’re essentially leaving that part of your teeth uncleaned. It’s a lot like only removing some of the moldy bread from the loaf and then placing it back in your cupboard; while there’s less of the mold, it’s still there and it’ll spread to the remainder of the bread faster.
As a result, when you don’t floss you increase your likelihood of getting tooth decay and gum disease, the latter of which is the leading cause of tooth loss in America. Flossing might seem like it takes a long time at first, but you’ll get faster and more efficient at flossing the more you do it and you’ll notice the benefits to your oral health. If you have untreated gingivitis, a very common but relatively minor form of gum disease, your gums might bleed when you first start flossing, but they should stop after a week or two of regular flossing. Since gingivitis can cause bad breath, you might even notice that flossing regularly makes your breath smell better.
Good oral hygiene makes dental visits unnecessary
Even if you take great care of your teeth and aren’t in any pain, you should still visit Dr. Sexton for a professional dental evaluation and cleaning every six months. Over time, plaque hardens into tartar, which you can’t remove by brushing your teeth at home. Dr. Sexton can remove this tartar and tell you, based on where it has built up, where you may need to brush a little more carefully. Additionally, cavities aren’t painful until they’re severe, so you can have them without knowing; Dr. Sexton is trained to spot signs of tooth decay and gum disease early. This allows you to get prompt treatment, avoiding the pain and expense of major dental issues.
While there are plenty of misconceptions about preventative dentistry including dental fluoride, cavities, etc., on the internet, it can also provide a wealth of helpful information if you can filter through it to find the facts. If you have any questions about preventative dentistry or your oral health in general, feel free to call and ask our office or schedule an appointment with Dr. Sexton at any time.