Dispelling Dental Myths: My Thoughts from What I’ve Seen and Learned
In my 20 years in dentistry, I’ve heard a lot of stories, concerns, fears and misconceptions from patients. These misunderstandings often lead to unnecessary worry or even avoidance of treatment that patients need. One of the things I love most about being a dentist is the ability to communicate with patients and give them a comfort level while providing some education. Reducing anxiety is always a goal and I find great satisfaction in transforming these misunderstandings into knowledge, empowering my patients to take control of their dental health. Here are some common dental myths I’ve encountered and the truths behind them.
Myth #1: More Sugar Means More Cavities:
One of the most prevalent myths I’ve come across is that the more sugar you consume, the more cavities you’ll have. Sugar is not good for your body and I have worked hard to educate patients on proper nutrition. However, while sugar does play a role in tooth decay, it’s not the sole culprit. Cavities are the result of bacteria in your mouth feeding on sugars and starches, producing acid that erodes tooth enamel. It’s not just about the amount of sugar you eat, but also about your oral hygiene habits and the frequency of your sugar consumption and brushing. I’ve seen patients drastically reduce their cavity risk simply by improving their brushing and flossing routine and having regular dental check-ups. Further, taking fruit juice away from children, especially before bed is critical to keeping their teeth healthy. You do not want sugar sitting on your teeth!
Myth #2: Brushing Harder Means Cleaner Teeth:
In my early years of practice, I noticed that many patients believed brushing harder would result in cleaner teeth. In reality, vigorous brushing can cause more harm than good, leading to enamel wear and gum recession. I always advise my patients to brush gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush and to replace it every three to four months, or as soon as the bristles start to fray. If you use an electric brush (which I recommend), let it do the work – don’t push – the technology is very effective.
Myth #3: You Shouldn’t Brush Bleeding Gums:
I’ve had many patients express concern about brushing their gums because they bleed. Contrary to this common myth, if your gums bleed when you brush or floss, it’s even more important to maintain your oral hygiene routine and come in for a visit. Persistent bleeding could be a sign of periodontal disease, and I encourage anyone experiencing this to schedule a visit with their dentist as soon as possible. In the office, we have procedures that can deep clean your teeth and often make your gums healthier before you have too much recession.
Myth #4: White Teeth are Healthier:
One of the most common misconceptions I’ve encountered is the belief that white teeth are healthier. While a bright, white smile is often desirable, the color of your teeth doesn’t necessarily reflect their health. I’ve seen patients with naturally yellowish teeth who have excellent oral health, and conversely, patients with seemingly perfect white teeth who have multiple cavities or gum disease. It’s always important to have regular dental check-ups to ensure your teeth are truly healthy. Also, before you whiten, you should always have a preventive care visit. It’s important to address any issues and have a healthy mouth before you whiten.
Myth #5: Dental Visits are Only Necessary for Toothaches:
A belief I’ve encountered frequently is that dental visits are only necessary when there’s pain. I have a close family member that I can use as an example. He had great home care and no pain, so he never went to the dentist. Over time, he had bone loss and his teeth loosened. Preventive care would have identified issues so that he could address them proactively. Many dental issues can progress significantly before causing any discomfort. Regular dental visits allow us to catch and address these issues early, often saving patients from more extensive treatments down the line.
Myth #6: Baby Teeth Don’t Matter:
As a dentist, it upsets me to hear some people dismiss the importance of baby teeth. Baby teeth serve crucial functions, and neglecting them can lead to serious complications in the future. I’ve seen cases where premature loss of a baby tooth due to decay led to alignment issues with the permanent teeth. Proper dental care should start as soon as a baby’s first tooth appears. Not only is it important to instill good habits, but children need these teeth for many years as they grow before permanent teeth come in. Accidents happen, and losing a baby tooth may not be a catastrophe, but teeth and oral health is important at every age.
Myth #7: All Dental Fillings Eventually Need to Be Replaced:
Throughout my career, I’ve encountered the belief that all dental fillings will inevitably need to be replaced. While fillings don’t last forever, many can last for years or even decades. Some patients want to come in to replace amalgam (silver) fillings because old fillings often contain mercury. Studies show that if they are intact, it is better to leave them than replace them.
Indeed, many factors contribute to the lifespan of a dental filling, including the materials used, the size and location of the filling, and a patient’s oral hygiene habits. I love reassuring my patients that with proper care and regular dental check-ups, their fillings can remain effective and intact for a long time.
Myth #8: Flossing Isn’t Important:
The importance of flossing is frequently underestimated by patients. After years of practice and countless oral exams, I’ve observed firsthand the significant difference flossing makes. A dentist professor once told me that if you don’t floss, you pretty much guarantee gum disease later in life. Brushing alone, even with electric toothbrushes cannot reach the spaces between teeth where food particles and plaque can accumulate, leading to cavities and gum disease. I can’t stress enough the importance of flossing at least once a day to maintain good oral health.
Myth #9: Restorative Treatment is Painful:
One myth that often causes unnecessary anxiety among patients is the idea that dental procedures are painful. Patients fear root canals (especially), crowns, extractions – you name it. However, with today’s modern dentistry, most procedures are typically no more uncomfortable than getting a filling. It’s great to see the relief on my patients’ faces when they realize most procedures actually alleviate their pain, not cause it.
Myth #10: It’s Too Late to Fix My Teeth:
In my practice, I’ve encountered patients who feel it’s too late for them to improve their oral health. I’m always eager to reassure them that it’s never too late. With the variety of restorative procedures available today, including fillings, crowns, implants, and dentures, we can address dental issues at any age. We always say that we treat patients of all ages, and it’s true. If you’re unhappy with your oral health or your smile, I encourage you to schedule a visit to discuss your options.
Helping patients understand the truth behind our dentistry and dispel dental myths is a truly enjoyable part of my days. I’ve found that this knowledge not only empowers them to take control of their oral health, but also reduces anxiety and fear associated with dental visits. Maintaining good oral hygiene and having regular dental check-ups are the best ways to keep your smile and your body healthy. If you ever have dental concerns or questions, please call our office. We are here to help! Keep smiling and have a great day!
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