Dental Myths: Busted!

Everyone knows that their oral health is important. We brush and floss regularly, use fluoride toothpaste, and go to the dentist twice a year. But there are actually plenty of misconceptions surrounding how to actually take care of your teeth. These common dental myths keep getting repeated time and time again, but they’re either partial truths, or entirely incorrect. Here’s the truth about 8 common tooth care myths.

Dental Myths: Busted!

1) You should rinse your mouth with water after brushing your teeth. 

This has always been common advice, but it’s really not necessary. Rinsing and spitting to get rid of residual toothpaste isn’t something you need to do -- it’s not toxic or anything, unless perhaps you eat the entire tube in one sitting. But toothpaste does contain fluoride, which helps strengthen your teeth by promoting enamel mineralization. Fluoride promotes the formation of a compound called fluorapatite, which is very close to compounds that occur naturally in your teeth. Fluorapatite incorporates itself into the enamel, strengthening your teeth against cavities. Rinsing your mouth immediately can remove helpful fluoride. 

2) You should brush your teeth immediately after you eat.

This actually isn’t good for your dental health. When you brush within 30 minutes after a meal, it can weaken your tooth enamel. This is especially true if you’ve recently consumed acidic foods, like citrus fruits or vinaigrette salad dressing. It’s better to wait longer instead. To freshen your breath and stimulate saliva flow, you can chew sugarfree gum after a meal instead. 

3) Fruit juice is better for your teeth than soda.

It’s really not. No one’s arguing that fruit itself isn’t good for you, but juice isn’t that great. It’s marketed as a healthy, natural option, but in reality, its sugar content is sky-high. Think about how much fruit it takes to make a pitcher of juice. With fruit juice, you’re basically removing all the fiber and concentrating the sugar. 

Diet soda should also be consumed in moderation. While it doesn’t contain sugar that promotes tooth decay, its high acidity can also damage your teeth if you drink too much of it.

4) Bad diet and bad oral hygiene are the only reasons that people get cavities. 

This isn’t quite true. The occurrence of dental caries (cavities) is actually a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors. Twin studies have revealed a link between genetics and cavities, and your propensity toward cavities is probably heritable. It’s not a matter of a single gene that you either have or don’t have; rather, a variety of genes that affect tooth enamel, oral bacteria populations, saliva composition, and other factors can all influence your overall risk of cavities. 

5) You shouldn’t brush bleeding gums.

Bleeding gums are usually a sign of gingivitis. This is treatable, and should be addressed as soon as you notice it. Early treatment helps prevent periodontitis, receding gums, and other problems. However, you should still keep brushing your teeth.

6) Tooth decay is mainly caused by sugar. 

We’ve addressed the genetic underpinnings of susceptibility to dental caries, but although sugar plays a major role, it’s not technically the direct cause. Sugar itself doesn’t cause cavities. However, the real cause are acids from bacteria that naturally occur in your mouth. A high-sugar diet encourages the growth and proliferation of these bacteria, and as the acids they’re secreting combine with your saliva, plaque forms. Plaque is actually just a biofilm made of bacteria, but they create an environment where localized acid buildup eats away at the tissues of the tooth.

7) Diabetes causes gum disease.

Diabetes does not cause gum disease directly. However, having diabetes can put you at higher risk of developing gum disease. Both diabetes and gum disease share an enhanced inflammatory response within the body. In diabetics, hyperglycemia can increase the formation of certain lipids and proteins that encourage inflammatory responses, making them more susceptible to gum disease and other inflammatory issues.

8) Water fluoridation is a government conspiracy to poison us.

Why, exactly, would a government implement a covert operation to poison its own citizens? Population control? Mind control? Just because they can? This is a conspiracy theory that gets talked about a lot in certain circles, but there’s little evidence backing up these claims. Water fluoridation programs have been in use for over 70 years, and it’s helped reduce tooth decay and dental disease -- especially in low-income areas, where people have poor access to dental care. Negative effects associated with fluoride occur only at concentrations that are much higher than what’s added into drinking water.

Debunking Dental Myths for Better Oral Health

To take better care of your teeth, it’s important to get the facts. Most of us learned to brush and floss from our parents, but most of our dental “knowledge” comes from hearsay, friends’ and family’s opinions, and dubious internet articles. If you’re not sure about something, ask your dentist. A lot of “common knowledge” about dental health is way off-base, and following misguided advice could actually harm your teeth.

Related Articles