Debunking Dental Myths

It is no secret that oral health is closely linked to your overall wellness.  I’ve written several blogs about the topic (“Poor Oral Health and Brain Function,” “The Relationship Between Oral Health and Heart Disease,” “Oral Health and the Cancer Connection,” just to name a few).  Those in the dental industry are elated that people are finally realizing how important taking care of your teeth and gums really is, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.  Nearly 50% of American children have some form of tooth decay and about 1 in 3 adults admits to skipping the dentist regularly.  Educating individuals on the basics of oral health is critical in fighting the oral disease epidemic that has swept our nation, and the world.  Part of that education could include the debunking of several dental myths that have been floating around for generations.  Fox News recently published an article that focused on five of the most common false facts, hoping to set the record straight.

Myth: Sugar is the main cause of tooth decay.  Sugar can definitely assist in the formation of cavities and can cause a variety of other health issues, but it isn’t actually to blame for decay.  Tooth decay is really caused by acids from bacteria formed in the digestion of carbohydrates.  While sugar is one of these carbohydrates, healthy foods such as vegetables, fruits, and grains, can also increase the acid in your mouth.

Myth: Teeth whitening will damage your enamel. Over-the-counter whitening products, such as white strips, trays, and pastes, include hydrogen peroxide as a key ingredient, usually at a 3-10% concentration.  This level is generally considered safe.  However, overuse or misuse of such products can cause enamel to become fragile and even porous.  The safest (and usually most effective) method of teeth whitening is under the supervision of your dentist.

Myth: Silver fillings don’t need to be replaced.  The debate over silver amalgam fillings is still a pretty hot topic, and you can find reputable supporters of both sides easily.  Read more about this topic, here.

Myth: Mouthwash with alcohol is good to use. Alcohol based mouthwash has a history of being associated with oral cancer, but recent studies have found the connection isn’t as definable as previously thought. Regardless, some experts suggest that the alcohol found in some mouthwashes is “dehydrating and denaturing to the natural ecology of the mouth called the oral microbiome.”

Myth: Wisdom teeth serve no purpose.  While the role of wisdom teeth is minimal, they are similar to your tonsils and appendix.  It isn’t totally necessary to have them removed, but many find that they cause cysts in the jaw, infections, and pain.  If they aren’t bothering you, then there’s no need to take them out.  Researchers in Japan have actually found that the pulp inside your molars contains stem cells, and studies have shown that they may lead to the ability to re-grow teeth in the future.

Whether you believe any of these myths or not, the key to achieving and maintaining good oral health is to regularly practice an effective oral hygiene routine.  Based on expert recommendations, your routine should include brushing your teeth twice daily for at least two minutes each time, flossing regularly, and visiting your dentist bi-annually.

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