10 dental myths debunked by experts
For most of us, dental hygiene forms an integral part of our daily routine. Not only do we want to avoid infections and cavities, but we also strive to keep our smiles white for cosmetic reasons too. Having a bright smile has become increasingly popular over the years, with celebrities flashing their flawless sets of pearly whites in the media. But there's an air of mystery around keeping our teeth clean and bright, with countless dental myths circulating far and wide. Whether it's quick fixes for stain removal or bizarre old wives' tales about tooth loss, there are a few records out there that need setting straight
We've enlisted the help of some top dentistry experts to help us do just that.
Myth: Women lose one tooth for every child they give birth to.
Truth: Dr. Singh tells us that, "This is definitely an old wives' tale and is totally untrue." But where did the myth come from? "Hormonal changes when you're pregnant can exaggerate bacteria in the mouth and can cause bleeding gums and gingivitis in some people," says Singh, who goes on to reassure us that, "If you see your dentist regularly and have a thorough regular cleaning regimen, then tooth loss is massively unlikely."
Myth: Beauty salons are good places to get your teeth whitened.
Truth: According to the NHS, "Teeth whitening is a form of dentistry and should only be performed by a dentist or another regulated dental professional, such as a dental hygienist or dental therapist, on the prescription of a dentist." While some beauty salons offer teeth whitening, this is actually illegal if there's no dental professional present and can carry significant risks.
Myth: Looking after baby teeth isn't important.
Truth: Dr. Affan Saghir tells us that, "Misinformed parents feel that leaving deciduous (baby) teeth to cavitate isn't an issue as they're not permanent. Tooth decay is a disease that affects both deciduous and permanent teeth. The decay of deciduous teeth can result in pain and infection, which can result in the child becoming anxious and distressed. The leading cause of General Anaesthetic for children under the age of five in the UK is dental extractions as a result of tooth decay. Simply reducing the amount and frequency of sugar intake and practicing good oral hygiene can prevent this."
Myth: Root canal treatment is extremely painful.
Truth: While many people think root canal treatment causes excruciating pain, the procedure itself is actually painless. The myth probably originates from the fact that a tooth infection that requires a root canal is likely to be a very painful one. Ironically, this pain will only subside after the so-called 'agonising' treatment. Patients needn't worry though. Like all major dental works, the procedure is carried out under local anaesthetic and so is completely pain-free1.
Myth: Coconut pulling can whiten your teeth and make them healthier.
Truth: Coconut pulling involves swishing coconut oil around the mouth for ten to twenty minutes and is supposed to have a range of benefits such as whitening the teeth, curing tooth decay and preventing cavities. But Dr. Rhona Eskander tells us that this is not backed up by scientific evidence: "Gum disease is caused by bacterial loading and removal is dependent on mechanical and chemical debridement. If there are hard deposits called calculus, they need to be removed mechanically. This is done by the dentist, using professional tools. And whitening can only be achieved by the use of peroxide, which breaks down the molecules that cause discolouration (intrinsic staining)."
Myth: You should rinse your mouth out with water after brushing your teeth.
Truth: We should actually be following a mantra of, 'spit not rinse' when brushing our teeth, as toothpaste contains a lot of useful ingredients for protecting our mouths throughout the day. These include fluoride, which keeps dental decay at bay and reduces the amount of acid that the bacteria in your mouth produce2.
Myth: Wisdom teeth cause crowding and overlapping of teeth at the front of the mouth.
Truth: Dr. Hanel Nathwani informs us that, "This is a common misconception, particularly with people in their twenties who see a change in the alignment of their teeth around the time their wisdom teeth come through. But the two events are unrelated. Often our adult aligner cases are patients that had braces as a teen, and confess they hadn't understood the importance of using retainers after teeth straightening."
Myth: You should avoid brushing bleeding gums.
Truth: While it might seem cringe-inducing to brush gums that are bleeding, this kind of bleeding is often caused by a build-up of plaque along the gum line so avoiding brushing will only add to the problem. According to Colgate, the best way to get rid of bleeding gums is to up your oral care routine, not reduce it3.
Myth: Brushing your teeth with lemon juice can make them whiter.
Truth: Dental advisor, Karen Coates, tells us that, "In truth this is very dangerous and senseless as lemon juice is highly acidic when in the mouth, and can cause permanent erosion and damage to the enamel on the teeth. This can lead to pain and to the teeth having to be filled, crowned or even removed in the most extreme cases. People should use a whitening toothpaste to try to reduce staining or alternatively see a dentist."
Myth: I'm not in pain so I don't need to go to the dentist.
Truth: By the time you actually feel pain in your teeth or gums, the problem that's causing it is probably in its later stages. Dental disease is usually completely pain-free until it has advanced, so it's important to have regular check-ups with your dentist. That's the best way of ensuring you get treatment before any problems get too bad4.
It seems that there are a few simple rules to follow when looking after our teeth. If we visit the dentist regularly, brush with a regulated toothpaste, and avoid home remedies that aren't backed up by any scientific evidence, our smiles will be all the better for it.
If you're looking to improve your oral hygiene, you may benefit from a dental plan, which can make the cost of looking after your teeth manageable.