Taking care of your teeth properly is essential to both your oral and your overall health. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation out there that leads people astray, sometimes even causing them to develop oral care practices that actually damage the health of their teeth or gums.
The best way to fight these misconceptions is to educate yourself on the truth; if you have specific questions, feel free to contact Dr. Hargrove for advice. For now, here are some common myths about oral hygiene and the truths behind them.The Truth About Oral Care
MYTH #1: YOU CAN AVOID THE DENTIST UNLESS YOU DETECT A PROBLEM.
The dentist serves several very important roles for your oral health. They protect your mouth from cavities by giving it a thorough cleaning, removing plaque and tartar buildup that you simply can’t reach at home, and spot issues like gum disease or worn enamel early.
Going to the dentist regularly, before you develop a toothache, saves you from unnecessary pain and from the expense of costly fillings or root canals. In fact, if you wait until you feel pain, the issue is likely already affecting the nerves of your tooth and you’ll probably need a filling for a major cavity—if not a root canal.
The general recommendation is that you should go to the dentist every six months, but some people need to go more often. Follow your dentist’s recommendation as to how often you should see them; your healthy, pain-free mouth will thank you for it.
MYTH #2: FLOSSING ISN’T NECESSARY.
Flossing is often seen as an extra step that doesn’t really do much. The truth is that flossing your teeth is integral to your oral health, as it prevents gum disease. Gum disease is tricky for patients to notice on their own until it becomes a major issue, as it’s often completely painless.
While gingivitis, a more minor form of gum disease, is usually completely reversible through good oral hygiene—including flossing—with no ill effects, the more serious form of gum disease, periodontitis, can result in patients losing teeth. While flossing may seem tedious, it plays an important role in your oral care.
MYTH #3: YOU SHOULD STOP FLOSSING IF YOUR GUMS BLEED.
If your gums are bleeding when you floss, a buildup of bacteria is likely causing your gums to be irritated. If you’re only flossing every once in a while, your gums are inevitably going to bleed. Clearing the bacteria from your gums will help stop this, meaning that the answer to keeping your gums from bleeding when you floss is actually to keep flossing regularly. It may take up to two weeks, but if you stick to it you’ll see lasting results.
MYTH #4: HEALTH PROBLEMS IN YOUR BODY AND IN YOUR MOUTH ARE SEPARATE.
Everything in our bodies is connected. Poor oral health can affect the rest of your body, while chronic illnesses can affect your oral health. Untreated gum disease, for example, is believed by doctors to increase your risk of stroke, heart attack, and diabetes. Believe it or not, people actually died from dental problems in the medieval ages!
Similarly, the health of the rest of your body affects your oral health. Certain health problems, such as diabetes and cancer, make you more susceptible to gum disease, and medications can make you more susceptible to a range of dental issues.
MYTH #5: I DON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT CAVITIES SINCE I’VE NEVER HAD ONE.
A lot of different factors affect oral health in addition to your oral hygiene, such as your overall health, medications you may take, and a change in your diet, to name a few. While the fact that you never had a cavity has a kid or young adult does help to give you an idea of what to expect, plenty of things could have changed in the intervening years to make you more susceptible to cavities or gum disease. Continuing to stick to good oral hygiene habits will go a long way towards keeping your teeth and gums healthy.
MYTH #6: SCRUBBING MY TEETH GETS THEM CLEANER.
When people clean, they often scrub—it’s simply ingrained in most people. So patients often transfer the habit to brushing their teeth. Unfortunately, scrubbing your teeth can actually do more harm than good. It can irritate your gums and erode your enamel, making your teeth more sensitive. You do want to remove the plaque from your teeth, but this is done easily enough by brushing your teeth relatively gently.
MYTH #7: TEETH WITH CROWNS ARE SAFE FROM DECAY.
Since crowns sit like a cap over your natural tooth, it’s easy to think that they protect it entirely from decay. There’s still an area of exposed tooth, called the margin, that is vulnerable to cavities; they can even form underneath the crown itself. If this happens, your crown will have to be removed to fill the cavity. It’s incredibly important to care for your dental crown just like you would your teeth. This will help your crown last longer and prevent the tooth underneath it from developing cavities.
MYTH #8: IF I BRUSH WELL ENOUGH, THE CAVITY WILL GO AWAY.
While it would be nice if this were true, it simply isn’t. If you have a trouble spot that has not yet developed into a cavity, good dental hygiene and a fluoride mouthwash may be able to help the enamel in that spot harden and even regain some minerals, preventing what could have become a cavity. Once all the enamel has worn away, however, there’s no going back. A cavity won’t heal itself no matter how well you try to clean it and will need a filling.
MYTH #9: SUGAR IS THE MAIN CAUSE OF CAVITIES.
While sugar is a big contributor, there are two other main culprits. Acidic foods and drinks, especially when consumed often, can damage your enamel. This means that diet soda really isn’t better for your teeth than regular soda, since the acidity is the same. Believe it or not, foods high in carbohydrates are just as bad—maybe even worse—for your teeth than sugar itself!
Carbohydrates stick to your teeth and begin breaking down into sugars, which the bacteria in your mouth eat, producing acid as a result. Since the food is stuck directly to your teeth for extended periods of time, it has more time to damage your teeth. This doesn’t mean that sugar from candy is harmless; it’s simply good for patients to be aware that pasta, bread, and chips aren’t that great for your teeth either.
MYTH #10: MOUTHWASH ISN’T REALLY NECESSARY.
This is half true. There are two classes of mouthwash: cosmetic and therapeutic. Cosmetic mouthwashes don’t really do anything for your mouth as far as cleanliness goes; they simply remedy bad breath for a short period of time. While that might be great if you’re about to head out for a date night, using it as part of your nightly routine isn’t going to do much to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
Therapeutic mouthwashes, however, do a lot for your oral health. They can address a number of specific issues, such as combating cavities or focusing on gum health to prevent or treat gingivitis. These mouthwashes are similar to floss in that they reach and clean areas of your mouth that neither your toothbrush nor floss can reach easily. This means a cleaner mouth with less buildup of plaque and tartar.
The various myths about oral care can make it hard to know how to care properly for your teeth. Educating yourself on the facts and acting on them is the best way to protect your oral health and discover emerging issues early enough to correct them. Doing so will save you money and keep your smile looking and feeling great for years to come.