For whatever reason, there are several common myths about dentists and oral health that endure to this day. Some of them are kind of funny, like the idea that all dentists have perfect teeth (if only!). Others are kind of weird, like the idea that there’s “skin” on “teeth.” Gross.
Unfortunately, however, not all of these myths are just harmless and silly. Some, like the four we’ve listed here, are actually quite damaging. These common myths often prevent people from acting in the best interest of their dental health. Here are four commonly-held notions about dental health that are just plain wrong, and why.
Brushing your teeth harder gets better results
Unfortunately, we hear—or rather see—this myth all the time. People believe that the harder they scrub away at their teeth, the more effectively they’ll remove plaque. Not only is this untrue, but it can also lead to enamel and gum damage. When you press the bristles of your brush down too hard, you wear away at the gums supporting your teeth. Over time, brushing too hard leads to gum recession and tooth damage. Two big downsides, and your teeth won’t even be any cleaner!
It’s surprisingly easy to get into the habit of brushing your teeth too hard. Next time you brush, pay careful attention to your technique. Are you pressing the brush into your teeth so hard it feels uncomfortable? Remember: brushing should never hurt. If it does, then you have a problem. Avoid brushing too hard by brushing the fronts and backs of your teeth gently in small, circular motions. Using an electric toothbrush can help prevent brushing too hard, too – plus it might be more effective for you!
You shouldn’t brush or floss bleeding gums
This common myth says that when your gums bleed, you should stop brushing and flossing until they stop. The idea is that brushing or flossing bleeding gums will only further irritate them. Unfortunately, this will only make things worse. The reason your gums are bleeding is probably because they’re irritated bacteria on the teeth and under the gumline. They’re not going to stop bleeding just because you stop brushing. In fact, brushing and flossing are two of the only ways to stop the irritation that typically causes bleeding.
Inflamed and irritated gums can swell, turn red, and bleed very easily. The best way to treat swollen or bleeding gums is to remove the bacteria that’s irritating them. If anything, therefore, bleeding gums are a sign you should brush and floss more frequently. Try this–if your gums bleed, thoroughly brush and floss every single day for two weeks. You should see less bleeding over that time. If you still have bleeding, it’s a clear sign that something more needs to be done.
Cavities might “go away” on their own
Of all the myths on this list, we might hate this one the most. Sometimes, people believe that if they follow good dental hygiene, they can “cure” a cavity without getting a filling. Unfortunately, this is a fundamental misunderstanding of what a cavity is. Cavities are literally holes in the hard outer layer of a tooth. They form when the acids produced by bacteria in the mouth eat away at the outer layers of the tooth, leaving a hole or “cavity.”
Once you have a cavity, it will never reseal on its own. In fact, cavities still contain the bacteria that created them in the first place. Unless a dentist cleans out that bacteria, the tooth will continue to decay. In other words, the cavity will continue to put your mouth at risk until it’s cleaned out and filled in. Good dental hygiene helps prevent cavities by removing bacteria before it decays teeth, but it can’t “fix” cavities that already exist. If you have a cavity, the only way to treat it is to have your dentist remove the decay and fill it.
You don’t need regular dental appointments if you brush and floss
Ok, this is probably the myth we hate the most. The idea is, if you do a really great job brushing and flossing, dental appointments are redundant. After all, they’d probably just peek into your sparkling clean mouth and tell you to keep it up, right? This myth is wrong for several reasons. Cleaning your teeth isn’t the only thing dental appointments are for. Dentists also monitor gum health, polish your teeth, spot tooth problems early, help prevent diseases, and more.
Regular dental check-ups are a good idea for everyone, no matter how well you take care of your teeth. Unfortunately, even excellent dental hygiene does not always guarantee you won’t have dental problems. Mouth diseases and tartar buildup can occur no matter your personal hygiene routine. By visiting the dentist regularly, you’ll know right away if you have any mouth problems you should be aware of. You’ll also receive expert guidance on how to address and overcome any problems.
Dental care and hygiene are important subjects. Your mouth’s health impacts the health of your entire body. False information like this is dangerous because it keeps people from taking care of themselves as well as they should be. As dentists, our job is to look after your dental health. Busting harmful myths like these is part of that job.
Another part of being a dentist is answering any questions you may have. If you want to know something about dental health, schedule an appointment any time. We’re always here to guide you toward long term dental health.