When it comes to dental care, you may think you know what’s best because there’s so much information out there, whether you get it from Dr. Google, WebMD, or your grandma Flow, who happens to have no teeth but can tell you the best way to take care of your mouth. It can be really overwhelming. And there are unfortunately a lot of dental myths that are floating around out there that while they may be good-intentioned, can actually have some pretty bad effects on your mouth and overall oral health. So in this article, I want to talk about some of the major myths and misconceptions about dental hygiene and the mouth, so I can hopefully educate you to avoid those.
Myth One: Brushing Harder is Better
One of the most common misperceptions we get from patients is that they think that brushing harder is better. And the nice thing is with the advent of electric toothbrushes and Sonicare, the ultrasonic level of toothbrushing, the mechanical part of that is not as impactful. It’s the vibration of the bristles, it’s the penetration of the ultrasonic waves that are really doing all the work. And so people are able to not push and bear down so hard. But unfortunately, we do have a lot of patients that were raised in the era of hard bristle brushes and medium bristle brushes. Now, if you go down your local Walmart or Walgreens aisle and look at toothbrushes that are available, you’re going to be really hard-pressed to find anything more than soft or ultra-soft and there’s a reason for that. The UltraSoft and the soft bristles are flexible. They can bend, they can kind of get on those nooks and crannies.
Don’t Use Medium and Hard Bristle Toothbrushes
The medium and hard bristles don’t have that flexibility. And so when you put those right at the gum level and put a lot of force and then on top of that, you add in a toothpaste, which is basically a dentro this that’s got hard particles, if you’re putting a lot of force on there, you’re going to be wearing away. You’re not taking away bacteria and food particles. You’re actually brushing away that outer layer of the tooth surface that enamel. And so a lot of times what we’ll see, especially on right-handed people on the right side, left-handed, people on the left side, we’ll see some pretty heavy and dented notches in the teeth right at the gum line. And that’s damage done from overaggressive brushing.
So the thing to remember is if you have an electric toothbrush, I’m a big fan of those. I think they’re great, especially for our patients that have limited dexterity. Basically just get the electric toothbrush and expose it to all the surfaces of the teeth and let it do its magic. If you can’t, a soft-bristled toothbrush is what you need. UltraSoft is great as well. It really is your choice. You could spend hours, and people like me probably have in the aisle looking at different toothbrush size heads, shapes, sizes, and tongue scrapers. There’s so much stuff out there, but the most important thing for your hygiene and for the protection of your teeth is it needs to be soft or UltraSoft.
Get an ADA-Recommended Toothpaste
Then you definitely want to use an ADA-recommended toothpaste. There are lots of different flavors, lots of different styles really, whichever one is going to motivate you to brush for two minutes is fine with me. I would anything really aggressive bleaching or whitening toothpaste we’ve talked about in other videos. But the main reason for that is the particle size is so big in those that it’s almost like the damage you’re doing from a hard bristled brush because you’re wearing away that outer layer of enamel. And sure the tooth looks brighter until it picks up more stain and more debris. Definitely use a soft bush brush when you come to see us after every hygiene appointment, every patient gets a new toothbrush. They generally last around six months to a year. That’s why we like to give them out at every hygiene appointment. So when we see you, we can check your teeth, make sure everything looks good and give you a brand new toothbrush.
Myth #2 Flossing Kills the Good Bacteria
Another interesting fact that I heard and I’ve heard floating around is that flossing kills the good bacteria in your mouth. I’m not sure where that came from or how someone thinks it can differentiate between the good bacteria. So everybody has tons of bacteria in their mouth, and generally speaking, the majority of those are good bacteria.
There are some bad ones and there are, I like to divide the bad bacteria into two categories. There’s the bacteria that attack the teeth, and so those people get lots of cavities, they get their teeth breaking down a lot quicker than they should. There’s the bacteria that attack the gum and the bone, and those are periodontal diseases. And so those are patients that while they could brush and take care of their mouth, no matter what they do, that bone and tissue is going to go away and they’re going to lose their teeth. The nice thing is with good healthcare and good home care, which includes flossing, you can keep those bad bacteria at bay.
You don’t remove only the good bacteria. Flossing is a great thing. It’s definitely necessary. You need to floss in between the teeth so you can remove food debris that a toothbrush can’t get to. The saying around here is you only have to floss the ones you want to keep.
Myth #3 Natural Remedies Are All You Need
Another myth that we come across a lot is that natural remedies that have been passed down, and I’ve got a friend who does this or I know a seer in India who does this. A lot of times, while there might be a kernel of truth in some of those remedies and treatments, at the end of the day, dentistry has come a really long way in research and finding out why we have the current materials that we use. So one of the things that we see is there’s been a movement against fluoride and toothpaste, and I think that’s a big mistake.
Make Sure Your Toothpaste Uses Fluoride
I think you want to make sure that the toothpaste you’re using has fluoride because fluoride not only helps strengthen the teeth but also helps prevent further cavities and further breakdown. Fluoridation of the public water was one of probably the top five beneficial health things that we’ve ever done as a whole society because we have patients that come from areas that either had well water or didn’t have natural water fluoride, and you can tell a difference their teeth, they’re soft teeth, their teeth that are more prone to breakdown. And so absolutely important that you have fluoride in your toothpaste because especially now that we’re doing a lot more bottled water drinking and not as much tap water, people aren’t getting the fluoride that they need from the water supply. So if you eliminate the water supply with the fluoride and you eliminate fluoride from your toothpaste, you’re really going to weaken your teeth and run the risk of having them break down quicker. Another trending natural remedy is oil pulling. To be honest, I don’t really know the science behind it, but it makes absolutely no sense to me how that can make your teeth better. I don’t think it can hurt, but I don’t think you’re creating any benefit to your mouth.
Mouth rinses are great. There are lots of brands that have actually Listerine is the only one that’s come out with an FDA-approved claim that it can actually kill the bacteria that caused dental decay. But if you don’t like the burning of Listerine, they have one. There are lots of alcohol-free mouth rinses, but mouth rinses are a great armamentarium to have. I would not recommend oil pulling. If you want to do it, that’s fine, knock yourself out, but you definitely don’t need to replace your dental hygiene. So if you believe in any of these myths or you have something you’d like to add to the conversation, please make a comment in the section below and I’d love to discuss it.
Myth #4: Sugar is the Only Cause of Decay
Another common myth is that sugar is the only cause of cavities. And while this is kind of partially true and that sugar plays a major role, the problem is it’s how you have the sugar, how long you leave it on the teeth and the amount of time.
So basically what happens is the bacteria in your mouth will take that sugar and they’ll turn it into acid. And if the acid sits on the tooth structure for long enough, it’ll start to erode away that enamel, which is the outer layer, and erode away the dentin. And that’s when you get into the nerve. And that’s not a good time. That’s either a root canal, an extraction, or dental pain – it’s not a good thing. I definitely wouldn’t recommend sugar just in general. We could always want to eliminate that from our diet and from our bodies, but if you do have sugar, rinse afterward. To be honest, almost everything we eat nowadays has sugar in it.
So anytime you eat, if you rinse out, brushing is great, but if you just rinse out and remove that sugar and that bacterial acid layer, you’re really not going to see the damage to your teeth. The problem is when we expose our teeth to long-term exposure. So being in the south, sweet tea is a huge thing. Everybody loves our sweet tea. I have no problem. I love sweet tea. Drink as much as you want, but you can’t just sip on it all day long. Unfortunately, we see that with a lot of patients. They sip on tea all day long. “I only had one 20-ounce bottle of tea” – but they did it for six hours and so basically you’re just bathing your teeth in that acid in that sugar environment. Whereas if you just drink it in one go and rinse out with some water, you’re really not going to have the negative effects on the teeth.
Another thing we see is candies, sugar tic-tacs, peppermints, etc. I highly recommend the sugar-free versions of those items because it’s the same thing, if you have a candy that you’re just holding in one area, again, you’re just feeding those bacteria to create that acid and you’re going to facilitate the breakdown of your teeth at a much faster rate.
Myth #5 Bad Breath is Only Caused By Poor Dental Hygiene
Another common myth that we hear is that bad breath is only caused by poor dental hygiene. Poor dental hygiene will absolutely lead to bad breath, but it’s not the only cause of bad breath. A lot of times if you have a mouth that harbors certain bacteria, if you don’t do a really good job of hydrating, don’t do a good job of scraping your tongue. That’s another thing that people don’t realize is that the tongue has lots of grooves and nooks and crannies. There are a lot of bacteria that can dive right in there. And so if you’re someone that does a really good job of brushing your teeth, has a healthy mouth, no decay, no cavities, nothing like that, but you still notice that your breath is not as fresh as you’d like it, one thing you might want to start considering is doing tongue hygiene.
Try Using a Tongue Scraper
So a tongue scraper, brushing your tongue back there, really cleaning off those deep crips and vaults that tend to harbor bacteria. Diet also plays a role. There are lots of foods when they get broken down, release different kinds of bacteria, and if you don’t clean those out and get them out of your mouth, it’s going to emit a particular odor.
So there are lots of medications that cause either a direct negative impact to the mouth through general inflammation or similar problems. These include dry mouth, which can lead to denture sores, denture irritation, and harboring of bacteria because saliva is really important in not only lubricating everything in the mouth but also rinsing away the bad bacteria and creating a layer that protects the tooth.
Some Medicines Can Affect Your Mouth
So there are lots of medicines that have that side effect. But another thing to think about is if you have a medication that causes bad breath and then you start eating mints or TicTacs to kind of protect yourself from that, all of a sudden you’re exposing your mouth to more sugar. So it’s more than just a direct negative impact on the whole environment. You have to make sure you kind of look at the whole picture and just make sure you’re informed when you have new medications.
So now you know some of the top myths about dental hygiene, but you may have more questions. One common question we hear is what’s better? Traditional flossing versus the water flossing the water picks. That’s one of the topics of our next article.