Myths are a part and parcel of everyone’s lives. However, one has to be wary of some of the myths that are floating around on issues related to health that includes dental health because it could result in dangerous consequences if followed without understanding the principles behind it. You will get some insight into dental myths by reading this FAQ.
There are many dental myths that fit into any of the above categories. Some of these myths are child related, some of them adult related and the rest superstitious and these are detailed below.
- Chocolate Eating causes caries/ cavities/ tooth decay
This is true only if you do not rinse your mouth properly after eating the chocolate. The chocolate particles stick to your tooth and the decay causing bacteria reacts with these food particles to produce acids which are mainly responsible for tooth enamel erosion and decay.
- Decay in Baby Teeth is not a Problem
Parents are of the opinion that there is no need for brushing baby teeth and maintain proper oral hygiene because they will be falling after sometime. They believe dental care of babies can start only after the babies get permanent teeth. In fact, the permanent teeth are growing under the primary teeth and tooth decay in primary teeth will result in damage to permanent teeth. Premature loss of baby teeth might result in improper positioning of the permanent teeth thereby necessitating orthodontic treatment in future.
- Upper teeth in children protrudes because of Thumb sucking habit
Thumb sucking is a normal habit for infants and the children feel happy and secure by thumb sucking. This habit starts decreasing one the child reaches 3 years. If the habit continues beyond the age of 4 to 5 years there is a cause for concern because it causes the problem of forward placement of the teeth. You must consult a dental surgeon on this habit if the habit is severe and more frequent.
- A child never needs cleaning of milk teeth
Not true. It is a myth that we need not clean a child's teeth. Children are as much prone for dental decay or gum diseases as adults. In fact children tend to have sweet food including sweetened milk and juices, which can promote dental caries. So it is advisable to start the habit of cleaning the infant's teeth soon after they appear in the mouth. In fact it is advised to clean baby’s gum pads everyday by gentle massage even before the teeth erupt.
- Baby toothpaste is the best for young children
Not true. Many baby toothpastes do not contain sufficient fluoride to prevent tooth decay. Choose the baby toothpaste that contains a minimum of 1,000ppm fluoride.
- Sufficient fluoride already exists in our water supply
Not true. Some water supplies only have enough fluoride. You must verify from your suppliers.
- More Sugar intake increases the number of cavities
Tooth decay occurs when sugars remain in contact with the teeth for a long time. Hence if you sip soda throughout the day or eat hard candy you risk more cavities than eating chocolate that melts away quickly. If you rinse your mouth after eating chocolate there should be a problem.
- Dental treatment should be avoided during pregnancy
Not true. Dental treatments are provided in the late stages of pregnancy at times. However, before performing a major surgical procedure it is necessary to take medical opinion. In the first three months of pregnancy it is essential to avoid dental x-rays.
- A mother loses one tooth for every child born
Not true. The theory behind this myth is that the baby in the womb takes away calcium from the mother’s teeth. In fact calcium is absorbed by the baby from the bone of the mother and not from her teeth. This loss of calcium has to be replenished and has nothing to do with tooth loss.
- Extraction of upper teeth will affect vision
Not true. This is a misconception. Treating the upper teeth or extracting it has nothing to do with vision.
- Worms are responsible for Tooth Decay
Not true. Tooth decay occurs when the tooth enamel is destroyed. Food items such as pop, milk, raisins, candy and cake contain sugars, carbohydrates and starches and if these items stay on the teeth for longer periods it will cause tooth decay. Bacteria inside your mouth react with such foods and produce acids. These acids cause erosion of the enamel on your tooth which in turn results in tooth decay over a period of time.
- Brushing with a neem twig is better than using a toothbrush and toothpaste
Not true. Neem twig has irregular bristles that could harm your gums. Better to use toothpaste and toothbrush.
- Brushing with salt whitens your teeth
Not true. Salt is abrasive and could harm your tooth enamel as well as your gums. The dentin is the tooth’s inner layer and is yellow in color. Removal of tooth enamel will make your teeth look yellow.
- Freshly Squeezed lemon juice will whiten your teeth
No amount of lemon juice will make your teeth any whiter. But it will definitely erode the enamel.
- Charcoal, salt, rice husk and tobacco powder cleans better than toothpaste
The purpose of teeth cleaning is to remove the food particles as well as the plaque on and around the teeth. Toothbrush has bristles that can enter the space between the teeth so that it can clean better using tooth paste or tooth powder. Commercially available tooth paste or tooth powder from branded companies contains particles of ideal size and they do not harm the teeth. On the other hand, salt and other powders are coarse and they could abrade the enamel in the teeth thereby causing permanent damage to them. Hence, it is advisable that you use standard tooth brush with tooth paste/tooth powder.
It is preferable to use toothpaste because it flows on the brush properly; further it contains anti-tartar chemicals, fluorides etc. that are good for your teeth. Since toothpaste foams it is helpful in freshening your teeth.
Tobacco should never be used because people tend to get addicted to the nicotine in the tobacco.
- Teeth cleaning with finger and powder are more beneficial than brushing with toothbrush
Not true. Tooth brush has bristles that are helpful for cleaning plaque and food particles from every surface of the teeth. On the other hand, finger cannot reach the surfaces that the brush reaches. Use brush & toothpaste for better teeth cleaning. Use fingers for massaging the gums.
- Eating foods when it is very hot is bad for teeth
Not true. Drinking or eating cold or hot foods are unlikely to cause damage to your teeth. If you do it on a regular basis it is quite likely that it causes nerve damage. You will definitely damage your nerves if you eat 2 to 3 ice candies everyday.
- More you brush, better your teeth
Not true. Brushing for long periods of time is not good for your teeth. The tooth enamel will wear out because of the extended brushing duration and in the long run this will cause tooth sensitivity. Limit your brushing time to 3 minutes and brush twice a day.
- Too much of brushing your teeth will erode the tooth enamel
True. This is all the more true if you brush in the wrong direction. Brush in the vertical direction and not in the horizontal direction. Use only soft brushes to prevent enamel erosion.
- Professional cleaning/scaling/removal of tartar loosens the teeth
Teeth are held firmly by the supporting tissues of the periodontium including bone. Bad oral hygiene results in the deposition of tartar /calculus on the tooth surface. These deposits irritate the gums and can cause inflammation and bleeding of the gums. If the tartar is not removed, the gums may recede and the supporting bone around the teeth gets destroyed. The tartar on the teeth thus causes great harm to the supporting tissues of the teeth. However, patients may experience slight mobility of the teeth after tartar is removed as it kind of binds the teeth together. Professional cleaning removes this tartar and arrests further destruction of supporting bone. Removal of tartar deposits only helps to recover the health of supporting structures. This chain of events does not take place in people who have dental checkup regularly.
- Many health problems are caused by Dental amalgam
Many public health organizations – WHO, PHS, NIH and FDA – have repeatedly stated that dental amalgams are safe.
- You can cure some diseases by removing dental amalgam
Not true. Such belief only leads to unnecessary dental treatments. Some of the health organizations and medical experts have given the following opinions on some of the beliefs on dental amalgams.
- National Multiple Sclerosis Society – no scientific evidence exists to connect MS or other neurological diseases development to dental fillings that contain mercury.
- Alzheimer's Association – no relationship exists between silver dental fillings and Alzheimer.
- American Academy of Pediatrics – no scientific evidence exists regarding the clinical toxic effects produced by dental amalgam
- Mercury vapors released by Dental amalgam fillings are harmful to your body
Chewing and grinding release minute amounts of mercury vapor – 1-3 micrograms per day and this is not significant enough to cause any harm.
- No harm is done by using sodium bi-carbonate for whitening your teeth
Not true. Sodium bicarbonate is highly abrasive and could harm your tooth enamel. Better way is to use special whitening toothpastes with bicarbonate for whitening your teeth. The sodium bicarbonate content in such toothpaste is minimal and will not cause damage to your teeth.
- For curing tooth ache take medications
Not true. Medication is meant for relieving the tooth pain and not for curing it; your dentist will check the root cause of the problem and find a permanent cure.
- Tooth Ache can be stopped by placing an aspirin beside the tooth
Not true. Aspirin can be taken orally to alleviate the pain. Aspirin contains acetylsalicylic acid and this causes chemical burn on the gum tissues. Place a powdered clove or apply natural analgesics such as a few drops of clove oil or tea tree oil that will help in reducing tooth ache. Too much of clove oil also might burn your gums.
- Tooth extraction is painful
this was true in the olden days when primitive equipments and techniques were used. At present dentists use local anesthetics to alleviate the pain of the patient. Tooth with complications such as impacted tooth or tooth having dilacerated roots might still be painful to extract.
- Dental procedures are always painful
Most dental procedures are carried out under local anesthesia, which makes the procedures totally painless. In addition the modern day high-speed drills cause fewer vibrations and are more comfortable for the patients.
- Toothpicks usage will widen gap between teeth
Not true. You can use commercial toothpicks without any harm for removing food particles; take care not to harm your gums. Do not use metal pins as toothpick. Better way to remove food particles between your teeth is to floss daily.
- Flossing cause gaps between teeth
Flossing could cause gaps between teeth only if it is done incorrectly. The correct method of flossing is to hold floss tight between two hands. Place the floss between the teeth and floss vertically 8 to 10 times. Correct flossing will prevent cavities and tooth decay.
- Osteoporosis Has Nothing to Do With Oral Health
persons having osteoporosis suffer from porous bones which are less dense and strong. The face bones hold your teeth in place and osteoporosis can affect your face bone. Calcium rich diet will help in strengthening of your bones which will avoid such problems.
- Wisdom tooth need to be extracted
Not true. You might have to get it extracted only when it pokes your inner cheek or displaces other teeth or come in the way of bone growth.
- Your teeth are healthy only when it is white
Not true. Teeth might be attractive to look at when it is pure white; however they are not expected to be pure white. Brush and floss regularly to make your teeth white. Avoid foods that could stain your teeth – coffee, tea and red wine.
- Braces cause mouth infections
True at times. The braces could cut your gums thereby causing infections. The foods might collect between the braces and if it is not removed it could rot thereby leading to infection.
- An artificial set of teeth or complete denture that is made once is forever
While it is true that well fitting dentures are used by the patient for many years, it is a myth that it can be retained forever. The oral tissues that lie below the dentures change over a period of time. But the dentures are made of stiff materials that do not adapt according to the changing contours of the oral tissues. Thus even a well fitting denture may not fit well after a few years. If an ill-fitting denture is continued to be worn, it can cause damage to the underlying tissues. Thus most dentists’ advice changing of the dentures once in at least 5 years.
- Once a decayed tooth is treated the dental problem is over
Dental decay is treated by use of various restorative materials. However the artificial material usually will not completely match the tooth in strength, colour, smoothness and other qualities. In addition if the patient does not maintain good hygiene, decay can start again around restorations.Hence, whenever a tooth is filled or replaced it requires use of additional cleaning methods like flossing, interdental brushes, etc, in addition to regular tooth brushing. In addition dental check up once a year becomes all the more important when you have a treated tooth.