When it comes to practicing good oral hygiene, there is a lot of useful advice available today to help you achieve a confident smile and a healthy mouth. Yet, that advice can also become overwhelming and lead to misconceptions which can have the opposite effect.
These misconceptions about oral hygiene can eventually lead to problems, including tooth loss, tooth decay, gum disease, and other dental complications. Since your oral hygiene can also impact your overall health, these misconceptions could be causing you even more harm internally.
Below are the five most common misconceptions about oral hygiene, and how you can overcome them to better care for your teeth, gums, and overall health.
1. Brushing Harder is the Best Method
Brushing harder may seem like a better way to remove plaque or erase stains. However, this common misconception can actually do more harm than good.
If you brush too hard, you can damage tooth enamel and also cause your gums to recede, exposing unprotected parts of the tooth. These parts are void of the strong substance known as enamel, which makes them more prone to cavities and decay. Their exposure can even result in severe gum disease.
Another related misconception is that hard-bristled toothbrushes will clean better in less time than soft-bristled ones. In reality, a soft toothbrush is the tool you need to keep your teeth clean and free of bacteria and protect tooth enamel and sensitive gum tissue.
In your daily dental care, gently brush your teeth and gums with a soft-bristled toothbrush for approximately two minutes, twice daily.
2. Avoid Fluoride
The use of topical fluoride has been debated in the news for a while now, so you may be confused about whether it’s good for your teeth or should be avoided.
The truth is that fluoride can be beneficial, assisting with what’s called the remineralization process. Since tooth enamel contains a high mineral content, this remineralization process can help to strengthen the tooth enamel and deter plaque and acid.
Today, safe amounts of fluoride are found in various toothpastes and mouthwashes on the market. You can also receive fluoride treatments from your dentist, which can be particularly beneficial to those already experiencing tooth decay, cavities, crowns, or root canals. Prescription-strength fluoride aids to use at home are also available.
For young children (infants and toddlers), however, excessive amounts of added fluoride are not recommended as they can lead to dental fluorosis, which results in white spots on the teeth.
3. Chewing Gum is as Efficient as Brushing
Conflicting reports about the value of gum chewing continue to lead to misconceptions of its capability in helping with dental hygiene.
The bottom line is that gum is not a good replacement for brushing. Chewing gum does not match the effects of using a toothbrush to clean your teeth daily or to stimulate gums to keep them healthy.
With that being said, chewing sugar-free gum can be of benefit to your oral hygiene because it can help increase saliva production within your mouth. This effect helps to alleviate dry mouth symptoms, including bad breath. It can also flush out hiding food particles between teeth and neutralize the acids that lead to enamel erosion and acid reflux.
If you do choose to chew gum, always select sugar-free varieties, and chew it between meals to reduce the amount of acid forming in your mouth from the breakdown of food and drink after eating. Chew for up to 20 minutes. This can help protect your tooth enamel until you can use a toothbrush and floss.
If you wear dentures or have excessive dental work, you may discover that gum sticks to the palate or your teeth easily, so you may want to avoid it altogether. Those who wear braces will want to avoid chewing gum as well.
4. Sugar is the Main Cause of All Cavities
Sugar has long been cited as the culprit when it comes to tooth decay and cavities. Yet, sugar itself is not the main cause of these dental issues.
Instead, the sugar found in the food and drinks you consume is broken down inside your mouth and feeds the bacteria already located there. It is these bacteria that actually cause plaque build-up, which then produces an acid that can slowly dissolve tooth enamel and dentine (the layer underneath the surface of enamel), leading to a hole or cavity.
Before switching over to sugar-free drinks as a solution, however, consider that such drinks also contain carbohydrates and acids, which, once mixed with your saliva and mouth bacteria, can lead to more plaque build-up. This build-up can then cause tooth decay and gum disease.
5. No Dental Visits Needed if You Maintain Proper Dental Hygiene
If you consistently brush and floss daily and do not experience pain or other issues, a misconception is that you don’t need to make regular dental visits.
However, while all may seem fine, scheduling regular dental exams and cleanings are the way to ensure problems don’t arise and to identify those issues that lie just under the surface, not yet creating any symptoms. Examples of these issues include gum disease or oral cancer.
The longer an issue goes undetected, the more damage it can do to your teeth, gums, or overall health. Schedule bi-annual dental exams for children and adults and cleanings to help with those hard-to-reach areas you can’t get to on your own.
Stay Proactive About Your Dental Care with the Team at Angela Bateson, DDS
The best way to stay proactive about your oral health today is to combine at-home care with regularly-scheduled dental exams and cleanings. At Dr. Bateson’s dental office in Findlay, Ohio, our compassionate team of professionals works with you to maintain the best oral hygiene possible for your particular needs. Contact us today or visit our dental blog for more information and tips on how to care for your teeth!