We all want the best dental care for ourselves. Part of achieving that means having the right information about how to take care of our teeth. But that can be a little tricky, difficult even, when we are faced with “dental myths,” I.e. general falsehoods in the field of dental hygiene that are commonly seen as truths.
In an effort to create the best dental care for you, let’s take a minute or two to learn about these myths and the real data behind them.
Dental Myths and the Truth About Them That You Need to Know
Here are the dental hygiene myths that we hear from our patients most frequently:
- First up, let’s talk about cavities. Cavities are likely the single most talked about and discussed dental health issue. And for some reason, there is this myth that only young, school-age people can get cavities. People probably think this way because it is true that young people are definitely the most prone to accruing cavities in their teeth. But that does not mean that cavities only happen to young people. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, as long as you have natural teeth, you can get cavities.
- On the subject of oral hygiene habits, a common myth is that the harder you brush your teeth, the cleaner they’ll get. Not so. In fact, there is such a thing as brushing too hard. Most dentists recommend a soft-bristled brush and a complete but gentle brushing of the teeth, twice a day. It’s more important to be thorough and to reach all areas of the teeth with the brush, as opposed to vigorously brushing with a great deal of force.
- Another pretty common and growing myth in regards to dental hygiene is that flossing is not necessary. And it didn’t help that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recently removed flossing from its list of standard health practices. But almost all dentists still swear by flossing and, yes, flossing does have immense benefits in preventive care for your teeth and gums.
- On the subject of dental habits and aging, we have this idea that gum disease is, “Just a part of getting older,” and that there is nothing that we can do about it. Not so. In fact, like almost all dental health conditions, gum disease is completely preventable. Gum disease usually only forms when plaque buildup is allowed to creep under the gum line. Good dental hygiene prevents the buildup of plaque. So if one takes good care of their teeth and mouth all their life, gum disease can be prevented, even in old age.
- Another myth in dentistry and aging mouths, teeth, and gums is that dry mouth is also a part of the aging process. This isn't the case. Dry mouth is usually the result of things like medication side-effects, specific diseases, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or nerve damage. Yes, dry mouth does happen often in old age, but it can happen to anyone, and it is not usually a direct byproduct of the aging process. To correct dry mouth, talk to your dentist about what might be causing it, and what can be done to prevent it.
- One myth we would all like to believe but which is not true is that chewing sugar-free, xylitol gum is a good replacement for regular brushing. This is not the case. Yes, xylitol gum has its own benefits. Sugar-free, xylitol chewing gum helps with saliva production and with washing away enamel-eroding acids. However, chewing xylitol gum does nothing for cleaning the mouth and removing plaque, which is what brushing is for. Be sure to brush at least twice a day, and floss once a day. Xylitol gum is a lovely bonus, but not a replacement for brushing.
- “Bleeding gums from flossing means you should take a break from flossing.” This is another common myth that dentists hear, particularly from patients whose gums bleed when they do try to floss. But the truth is, bleeding gums are not caused by the act of flossing itself. Rather, the bleeding is actually being caused by not enough flossing. When a person is not flossing regularly, plaque builds up in the spaces between the teeth, causing the gums to become inflamed and more susceptible to bleeding. Regular flossing will actually reduce bleeding gums, even if such an activity sometimes feels like it is the cause of the bleeding. Dentists recommend that their patients simply stick with regular flossing, and the problem will
Talking to Your Dentist About Proper Dental Hygiene Habits
The above myths are likely the most common ones that we hear about in the dental space, but they are certainly not the only ones out there. The best way to avoid myths in dentistry is to simply talk with your dentist about the best dental habits for you and to be sure to implement them.
Most dentists recommend a visit once every six months for adults. With that in mind, a combination of regular dental checkups, conversation with your dentist, and consistent oral hygiene in the months between will allow for great dental health for you.