Dental Myths, Debunked

The world is full of myths. They bring depth to our experience; hearing apocryphal accounts and urban legends, then having to verify, learning what was true, what was not, and how the myth was developed. Myths are often borne from a little knowledge, which can be a dangerous thing, to paraphrase Alexander Pope. When we know one piece of the puzzle, we’re inclined to extrapolate from that piece, to guess at the rest. This can lead to wrong conclusions, especially if you’re not evaluating your methods critically. Dentistry is no stranger to such myths, and it is our duty to correct them.

One myth says that whitening your teeth damages them. The myth probably derives from the fact that bleach is an irritant, and using it on your teeth can cause sensitivity and gum irritation. That said, there’s no clinical proof that a teeth whitening procedure will cause damage to your teeth; if there was, we would never advise doing it! That said, teeth whitening is a relatively new phenomenon, and so long-term studies of patients who have had multiple bleaching procedures done have not been conducted; more research is needed, which may again be where the myth stems from.

Another myth is that you shouldn’t floss if your gums bleed. This myth is totally understandable; as a rule of thumb “if it makes you bleed, stop doing it” is a pretty solid one. That said, if your gums bleed when you floss, it actually means you should floss more often. That’s because your gums are bleeding due to a buildup of bacteria causing gum infection. Floss more often, and the bleeding will stop because the infection will clear up. Getting into the habit of flossing can be a hard hurdle to overcome, but it’s January, so consider making it one of your New Year’s Resolutions!

The next myth might blow your mind: most people think you should brush your teeth right after you eat, but that’s usually not the case. When there’s acidity in your food, it begins to attack the enamel, but brushing right after the introduction of the acid might actually speed up the erosion of your teeth. The motion of brushing actually pushes the acid into your teeth. The solution? Wait at least 30 minutes after you eat before your brush! The same thing holds true for sufferers of acid reflux; after an episode, you should wait 30 minutes to an hour before brushing, for the same reasons.

The final myth: that you should only go to the dentist when you have a noticeable health problem. Nothing could be further from the truth; a lot of dental work is preventive! Tartar is too hard to be removed through brushing alone, and must be cleaned off by a professional. Dentists are also trained in spotting potential health problems that aren’t obvious themselves to the untrained eye, including worsening gum disease, diabetes and cancer. You might have beautiful looking teeth and feel like you’re in perfect health, but you should see a dentist anyway!