Common dental myths

Some of us don’t look forward to visiting the dentist, regardless of whether we are aware of the long-term benefits or not. So with all the unnecessary anxiety surrounding dentists and dental health, it’s not surprising that myths about oral health continue to circulate in our society. However, many of these are totally unfounded. But what’s fact and what’s fiction? Here are the top 6 common dental myths.

#1 – Only sugar causes tooth decay

We all know that eating too much sugar increases your risk of tooth decay. This is due to sugary foods feeding the plaque-creating bacteria in your mouth, which increases the acids that wear away the surface of your teeth. It’s also not just about the amount of sugar you’re eating, it’s also about how often you expose your teeth to sugar throughout the day.

However, lollies, chocolate and soft drinks aren’t the only ‘harmful’ sugars. Too much juice, fruit or sweetened yoghurt can be just as damaging, and starchy foods containing carbohydrates can also cause plaque to form. But sugar being the only cause of tooth decay is a dental myth because even if you don’t have a lot of these in your diet, you will still be at risk of cavities if you don’t floss and brush correctly.

The solution? Avoid snacking on sugary treats (opt for healthy snacks like veggie sticks, cheese and nuts), and drink plenty of fluoridated tap water throughout the day which can help repair weak spots that can become cavities.

#2 – Sugar-free products are better for you

One of the more common oral health myths is that sugar-free products are actually completely safe for teeth, however, that’s not the case. Sugar-free soft drinks and lollies, for example, do have the potential to cause the erosion of dental enamel and lead to cavities and heightened sensitivity. This is because they are high in citric acid, which is a major cause of tooth erosion.

Citric acid is also added to sports drinks to make them taste better (because the electrolytes don’t taste good!), and sipping on a sports drink with a dry mouth can also provide an environment that helps erosion along.

Before purchasing any sugar-free products or sports drinks, make sure you check the ingredients list for both citric acid (ingredient number 330) and phosphoric acid (ingredient number 338).

And if you must drink or eat acidic foods and beverages, don’t brush your teeth straight afterwards as the combination of erosion and abrasion can wear away your teeth’s enamel. Drink fluoridated tap water, rinse thoroughly and then wait a while before you brush.

#3 – Brushing more regularly is good for your teeth

Over-brushing your teeth is another common dental hygiene myth, however, it can lead to gum recession and tooth wear due to the abrasive properties of many kinds of toothpaste and the hardness of our toothbrushes. Avoid excessive brushing by using a soft bristled brush and a gentle brushing technique rather than scrubbing. Brush for two minutes twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste and spit (don’t rise) the toothpaste out as this will ensure a bit of fluoride is still retained on your teeth. You should also floss your teeth once a day.

In between this, you can rinse your mouth out with tap water after eating and chew sugar-free gum after meals, which will help cleanse your teeth and stimulate saliva flow. Saliva helps to balance the acids that are in your mouth and assists with reducing the risk of decay.

#4 – Teeth whitening is harmful to teeth

Teeth-whitening toothpastes and DIY kits may contain harmful chemicals and/or high peroxide levels (the Australian Dental Association recommends these don’t exceed 6%), and undergoing a teeth whitening procedure at a salon or kiosk can also be dangerous due to the industry being largely unregulated. Potential issues include sensitive teeth, sore gums, and a lack of proper infection control. However, it is a dental myth that all teeth whitening procedures are harmful. If performed by a dental professional who is qualified to assess your teeth, these can be done safely and effectively. Your dentist can also assess underlying problems that might be causing discolouration. Many dentists will offer custom-fitted bleaching trays, which ensure a better control of the bleaching product and less gum irritation.

Dentists are also allowed to perform what’s called ‘power bleaching’ where they will place a strong hydrogen peroxide bleach in trays that are fitted to your teeth. The effect is also often enhanced with the use of a heat or light source such as LED, lasers or halogen lamps.

#5 – Fluoridated water isn’t good for you

One of the more common myths about oral health is that drinking fluoridated water is not good for us. However, according to the National Health and Medical Research Council community water fluoridation programs are considered to be a safe and effective way of reducing tooth decay across the Australian population.

In fact in Australia, dental health has actually improved since water fluoridation began in the 1950’s. Compared to our parents’ generation, those born after 1970 (when the majority of water fluoridation programs commenced), have about half the level of tooth decay as their parents do.

Combined with a healthy diet, good oral hygiene, the use of fluoridated toothpaste and regular dental check-ups, scientific research has confirmed that water fluoridation is an effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay.

#6 – We always know if we have a cavity in a tooth

Yes, there are a number of obvious signs that you might have a dental cavity. These range from tooth sensitivity, toothache, discolouration, difficulty chewing or you might even be able to see a visible hole. However, it’s also true that sometimes you might not feel any pain at all. This can lead to bigger issues particularly if the cavity is left to become larger and it starts encroaching on the nerve (the pulp) inside your tooth.

That’s why regular dental check-ups including x-rays are so important. Your local dentist can detect potential problems early and recommend the appropriate treatment to ensure small issues don’t become big ones!

It’s no myth that dental check-ups are crucial to ensuring good oral health. Contact the friendly staff at Australia Dental on (07) 3888 9125 (Burpengary Dentists) or (07) 3284 7112 (Clontarf) to book an appointment today.