From the time they were old enough to hold a toothbrush, most people have been given the same advice about dental care. Much of that oft-repeated advice is sound. Some of it bears closer examination. Still other commonly held beliefs are simply untrue.
Sorting Dental Care Truth from Dental Care Myth
Taking proper care of your teeth and gums is viewed as an exemplary way to assure overall health and well being. Modern research confirms dental and periodontal problems are related to other health conditions, and might provide early warning signs for disease. While the links and causative factors are still fuzzy, neglecting teeth and gums is unwise for a variety of reasons.
But believing common myths about teeth and tooth care can also be problematic. Here are some examples:
- MYTH: Decay is caused by too much sugar. This is a true enough statement, but it doesn’t go far enough. Actually, it’s the imbalance of beneficial and harmful bacteria in the mouth that leads to decay. Consuming refined sugar adds to the risk, but it’s the acids formed during the digestive process, in combination with saliva, that form dental plaque and result in cavities. By all means eat a healthy diet and don’t overindulge in candies or sugar-rich drinks. But even if you eat only natural fruits and vegetables, you may still be plagued by cavity-forming plaque. There is no substitute for regular brushing, flossing and dental exams.
- MYTH: Those old silver fillings are as good now as when they were new. Well, maybe. But, only your dentist will know for sure. Many traditional silver amalgam fillings are actually laden with mercury. Mercury at certain levels in the body can lead to serious autoimmune diseases, chronic health issues and possibly even mental disorders. Some dentists believe that there is no good reason to take the risk when it is relatively easy to replace old fillings with safer modern options. Have your dental professional check the condition of your old ‘silver’ fillings, especially if you grind your teeth, have lost part of an old filling, chew gum regularly, or drink a lot of hot liquids.
- MYTH: Whitening will damage enamel. A bright smile is a confidence booster — no doubt about it. And there is no reason to fear having a professional help out. Even if you choose an occasional over-the-counter tooth-brightening product, you are not likely to cause lasting damage. Active oxidizing agents that remove stains are safe for occasional use, although a common side effect is increased sensitivity. If you choose a DIY product, use only as directed. The best policy, of course, for both your smile and your oral health, is to have the job done professionally.
- MYTH: Pull those wisdom teeth; they serve no purpose. Those extra molars were designed for a specific job, and it was important to our early ancestors. Now, not so much. Human jaws over the millennia have become smaller, and those last-to-arrive chewing teeth often cause more grief than good. So, if your dental professional says they need to go, follow that advice. If, however, you have plenty of room to keep them, why not let them stay? New Japanese research suggests that the stems cells contained in those molars might in the future lead to an ability to regenerate or grow totally new teeth.
- MYTH: Mouthwash with alcohol is beneficial. Aside from a possible, though not conclusive, link with cancer, current wisdom is that alcohol as a mouthwash ingredient is not only unnecessary, but can cause harm. It is dehydrating and leads to an imbalance in the natural ‘ecology of the mouth.’ It’s smart to avoid it.
If you have other questions regarding oral hygiene and proper care of your teeth and gums, but sure to ask us. At Salcetti & Associates, there might be some myths we hold dear, but we believe in helping you with the facts.