Debunking common dental myths among adults

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By Dr. Jennifer Wallace

When it comes to dental health, that “ignorance is bliss” approach should be reserved for children. For adults, dental myths that may lead to a wiser you and a healthier mouth.

“I haven’t seen the dentist in years so I don’t have any cavities.” NOT TRUE. Many dental issues do not cause pain until they have progressed very far, for example, a root canal. Gum disease, on the other hand, may not cause any pain at all. Seeing your dentist regularly is the only way to ensure you don’t have any of these issues. Your visit to the dentist should be based on your individual needs. Many studies have shown that plaque can build up in as little as 90 days, which leads to inflammation and infection that can affect your entire body. So if you want a really healthy smile, and body, having your teeth cleaned four times a year is the way to go.

“I don’t eat sweets, so I don’t need to brush as often.” NOT TRUE. Removing the bacteria from your mouth is important no matter what you eat, because many foods are broken down into sugars. What are the worst offenders for your grill? Foods that stick to the teeth like raisins and fruit rollups, along with foods that have a high acid content, such as citrus fruits.

“Flossing is as important as brushing.” TRUE. Flossing removes almost half of the bacteria and food particles that are found in your mouth after you eat; not flossing means you’re doing half the job.

“Hard bristled toothbrushes clean better.” NOT TRUE (unless you are cleaning the grout on the bathroom tile floor instead of your teeth!) The softer the better for bristles — hard or medium bristles can damage teeth and worsen gum recession due to a traumatic occlusion. Also, studies show that high-quality electric toothbrushes with soft bristles are a great investment because they clean better than manual tooth brushes.

“Mouthwash is the best way to freshen your breath.” NOT TRUE. Most mouthwashes cover bad breath but they do not treat the underlying cause. Bad breath can be caused by bacteria in your mouth, cavities, gum disease, or it may be a sign of other medical issues. Your dentist can help rule out dental issues as the cause. If you like using mouthwash, go with an alcohol-free brand, because the alcohol in mouthwash will dry out your mouth. And while we are talking about fresh breath, sugar free gum with Xylitol is an effective way to get a clean mouth feeling if you can’t brush.

“Avoiding dark liquids and coffees or drinking through a straw will keep your teeth from getting dark.” MOSTLY TRUE. It’s more than coffee, tea and soda that stain our teeth. Teeth that have wear and enamel loss tend to be darker because those teeth have less of a protective layer against those staining liquids. Foods such as berry pies, soy sauces, red sauces and mustards/ketchups can cause teeth to darken over time. The best way to whiten your teeth and keep them white is to visit your dentist and have him do an in office whitening or make you custom trays. There are some over the counter whitening products like whitening toothpastes, but they typically do very little to whiten teeth. Use regular toothpaste with fluoride to keep your teeth looking great and cavity-free.

Dr. Wallace practices at Palmetto Smiles of Beaufort and can be contacted at 843-524-7645 or www.palmettosmilesofbeaufort.com.