We hear them all the time, and we’ve addressed many of them before. There are some deep-seated beliefs about your dental health that are hard to let go, but completely false. Below are some of the most common ones, debunked:
- Only sugar causes tooth decay
Eating too much sugar (especially processed sugar) does increase your risk of tooth decay. As the sugary food is broken down, it feeds the plaque-creating bacteria in your mouth and worsens the acids that can wear away the surface of your teeth. But even if you don’t have a lot of sugar in your diet, you’ll still be at risk of cavities if you don’t brush and floss correctly. Starchy foods also contain carbohydrates that can cause plaque to form.
- Sparkling water is good for me/my teeth.
Oh, we wish it were true. While sparkling water options are certainly better for your body as a whole than soda, dentally they have much the same damaging effect. Carbonated beverages are, by their nature, quite acidic, especially when citrus flavors are added to the beverages. The carbonic acid in combination with the acid from citrus will erode the enamel and lead to serious decay. To limit the damage, use a straw, drink quickly and rinse with water afterward.
- White teeth are healthy teeth
Although you might like the look of white teeth, they aren’t always a fool-proof sign of dental health! Natural teeth colour varies in lightness, especially as we age. Just because your teeth are white doesn’t mean you can avoid visiting the dentist. You may still have cavities, infections or other oral health problems that need to be treated sooner rather than later.
- Whitening damages your teeth
Modern teeth whitening techniques are typically considered safe – as long as you have your teeth whitened professionally at a dental clinic, or you follow your dentist’s instructions when using a home whitening kit that’s appropriate for you. However, if you use a whitening product when you shouldn’t, or you don’t follow instructions properly, you can risk damaging the enamel surface of your teeth and causing harm to your oral health.
- Gum disease is only a problem for your mouth.
Your dentist might be the first one to notice it, but if you have gum disease you’re more likely to have health issues such as diabetes and hypertension, as well as certain types of cancers that are related to chronic inflammation.
- Radiation from dental x-rays is dangerous.
It’s understandably unnerving, coming that close to something the sole purpose of which is to aim radiation at you. But when you learn more about the technology, you begin to see that the radiation involved in dental x-rays is little more than what you get on the average flight. Unless you are under specific orders from your physician, there is no reason at all to fear x-rays. Taken yearly, they pose very little risk, and the benefit of that diagnostic information is priceless!
- A woman will lose teeth during pregnancy
Perhaps you’ve heard of the saying “Gain a Child, Lose a Tooth” or something similar? The Myth is that a woman will inevitably lose a tooth during pregnancy (or at least should expect dental problems as a result of it). Although your body and mouth change during pregnancy, your dentist, or General Practitioner will let you know if there is anything to be concerned about and it is safe to visit the dentist during pregnancy.
- Fluoride is dangerous.
The debate about this has been going on for years, and can get pretty heated! But for fluoride to be lethal, you would need to ingest 5-10 g. To put that in context, the recommended level of fluoride in water is .7 to 1.2 parts per million – a very diluted dose! A person would need to really try to ingest too much fluoride, and in small doses, the benefits far outweigh the risks. The only place you should use caution is in children too young to effectively spit out toothpaste – in this instance, a non-fluoridated toothpaste is recommended to avoid fluoridosis.
- My parents have bad teeth, that means I will too
Although genetics do play a small role in determining how healthy your teeth will be, the influence is minimal. The main key to having a healthy mouth is to take care of them yourself with regular brushing, swapping sugary drinks for water eating lots of fruit and vegetables. Prevention is the key – most tooth decay is totally preventable.
- Listerine causes cancer!
This may be one of the more sensational myths, and we hear it a surprising amount in our office. A few years ago, a study conducted in Europe set off a frenzy of articles claiming that alcohol-based mouthwashes cause cancer. While there was some correlation found in this study, some important things to note are:
The study refers only to excessive use (3+ times a day)
It is unclear whether the alcohol content of the mouthwash or poor oral hygiene overall was the main contributing factor to increased cancer risk. The most conclusive finding of the study was that poorer oral hygiene and dental care was a factor in the increased likelihood of oral cancers, thus reinforcing the importance of good oral hygiene habits!
- Taking care of my child’s baby teeth isn’t really necessary
Yes, your child will lose his or her baby teeth as time passes, but those baby teeth are paving the way for the permanent teeth to come. Neglecting to take proper care of your child’s baby teeth can cause problems with their bite and the health of the permanent teeth.
- Everyone has to have their wisdom teeth taken out.
Thankfully this one isn’t true either! Wisdom teeth only need to be removed if they are causing a problem in the mouth – i.e. they’re painful, crowding or misaligning the other teeth, or impacted. Now, these problems are very common with wisdom teeth, which is probably why the myth exists. But as long as they aren’t affecting your dentition and you’re able to effectively keep them clean and healthy, there’s no need to remove them.
As with any field, dentistry has its own complexities. If you ever have questions or are wondering if something is true, don’t hesitate to ask us!