Some people can go years without taking a second look at their ideas about oral health (especially if they don’t see a dentist regularly!). Particularly for those in the older generation, false dental information that was considered fact decades ago can easily go uncorrected. Even now, many myths about dental health survive, and even thrive, due to the spread of misinformation. We hope to do our part in correcting some of these misconceptions, so here are five of the most common dental myths that, if not corrected, can prove to be detrimental to your oral health.
Myth #1: Silver fillings need to be replaced with composite resin
Dental amalgam fillings (commonly called simply “silver”) are typically made up of safe mercury, copper, tin, and silver. Amalgam has been used for over a century in dental practice, and for many people, is the only kind of filling that they have in their mouths! With the current practice of using mainly composite resin to treat cavities, it’s natural to think that you need to replace all of your old fillings with this new material. The common myth is that the mercury levels in amalgam can be dangerous to your health, but this is actually completely unproven. In fact, the ADA and the Mayo Clinic both support the use of dental amalgam for filling cavities and state that it is a durable and reliable option. While it’s not necessary to replace silver fillings with composite for health reasons, you may be considering the switch for the aesthetic improvement. If this is the case, make an appointment with us so we can discuss your best course of action.
Myth #2: Bleeding gums when flossing is normal
If your gums bleed regularly when you brush or floss, you might brush it off as insignificant. It’s easy to think that it’s normal because of the pressure being put on your gums, but it’s actually cause for concern! If you see this happening, it could be the case that you have gum disease. Inflamed gums is a direct symptom of gingivitis and periodontitis, and they will bleed easily when prodded. It’s important to note that if you have just started a flossing routine, your gums may bleed mildly for about a week, but that should stop. Additionally, brushing too forcefully or with a hard-bristled brush can cause bleeding, so if that’s the case, switch to a soft-bristled brush and apply gentle pressure, focusing more on brushing for the full 2 minutes, rather than the force applied. If you are flossing regularly, brushing the right way and your gums are still bleeding, be sure to make a dental appointment as soon as possible.
Myth #3: Sugar is a direct cause of tooth decay
While sugar is definitely part of the decay process, it’s not the contact of sugar itself on your teeth that causes decay. The bacteria already present in your mouth converts sugar into lactic acid, and that is what begins the erosion process. It’s the acid that wears down your enamel and causes cavities to form. While it’s important to avoid sugar, remember that acid in general will cause decay, so the consumption of anything acidic will harm your enamel if the right steps aren’t taken. Obviously sweet treats or citric acid will be consumed sometimes, so it’s important to remember to stay hydrated, drink water after consumption, and wait to brush for at least 30 minutes, if possible.
Myth #4: Seeing your dentist every 6 months is unnecessary
Not only are these appointments important to maintain your dental health, but your dentist will also be able to examine for serious diseases like cancer or diabetes. It’s a preventative measure that could potentially save your life. Did you know that a lot of cases of treatable cancers are first noticed in the dental exam? According to the ADA, a symptom of oral cancer is actually a change in the way your teeth fit together. Seeing a dentist twice a year is crucial for the health of your teeth because of the exam and professional cleaning, but it is also beneficial for the health of your whole body. Knowing that you could be preventing the spread of a serious disease should be motivation enough to keep that biannual appointment.
Myth #5: Mouthguards are not commonly needed outside of sports
Mouthguards are normally associated with sports that are contact-heavy. The image of athletes wearing guards to protect their mouths is seen on televised sports all the time, but using a guard (particularly at night), is a need that many people have and probably don’t realize it. Bruxism, which is chronic grinding of the teeth, happens mostly at night and causes a variety of issues, including TMJ, massive headaches, and even cracked teeth that lead to cavities. Using a nightguard while you sleep can save your oral health if you have bruxism. Because you aren’t conscious while you’re asleep, you may not be aware that you grind your teeth at all. If you notice jaw pain or headaches but aren’t sure if you have bruxism, talk to a dentist as a nightguard might be your answer!
The consequences of believing common dental myths can be catastrophic, not just for your teeth and gums, but for your health in general. Fortunately, it’s never too late to correct misinformation and establish solid dental practices. The best thing you can do for your oral health is to talk to your dentist about any questions you may have as only a professional can provide you with accurate information that is up-to-date and reliable. Call our office today, and we can work together to ensure that you are on the right track.