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There’s a lot of health-related information — and misinformation — out there. Most of it stems from the fact that we all have unique health experiences and needs. Plus, there are new advancements almost every single day, and sometimes the messages can get confusing.
But today, we’re setting the record straight. We’ve crowdsourced eight of the most common dental myths out there and scouted the research to debunk them. Our cause is simple: We want you to have the healthiest smile possible — without the noise.
The 8 most common dental myths
Myth 1: Sugar causes cavities.
This myth isn’t entirely false. Sugar does contribute to the formation of cavities, but it’s not the cause of the problem. (Feeling like your whole childhood was a lie? We felt the same when we found this out too.)
It’s actually a bacteria problem. Sugar in your mouth causes bacteria to produce acids that slowly eat away at your tooth enamel, which in turn causes tooth decay. This is why it’s so important to rinse and brush after sugary meals... and to consider adding more fruits and vegetables into your diet, which will restore the minerals in your teeth. (In other words, keep them strong and healthy!)
Myth 2: Brushing harder cleans better.
Many people associate harder brushing with a better clean. It’s just like scrubbing your kitchen countertops, right? Wrong.
If you’re too abrasive while brushing, you can contribute to enamel erosion — or losing the protective layer of your teeth. It can even cause gum recession or gum disease. Dentists will always recommend a soft-bristled toothbrush for this very reason, so you can save your arm strength for your kitchen deep cleans.
Myth 3: White teeth are healthy teeth.
The color of your teeth isn’t a direct indicator of dental health, especially with so many teeth whitening services and products on the market. And spoiler alert: when you visit the dentist for your twice-annual dental cleaning, they aren’t too concerned about how white your teeth are. They’re looking for indicators like fresh breath, tooth decay, and cavities to determine your oral and overall health.
Which brings us to our next myth...
Myth 4: Dental health doesn’t affect overall health.
It can be easy to write off a toothache or bad breath as a small, insignificant problem. But believe it or not, it can contribute to the well-being of the rest of your body.
Your mouth is an entry point for harmful bacteria, which can make its way through your body if not regularly (read: twice per day) taken care of. Poor oral health can lead to much more than tooth decay — it can lead to cardiovascular disease, dementia, respiratory infections, and diabetic complications too.
Myth 5: Diet soda is okay for your teeth.
Diet sodas are popular because they don’t have cavity-causing sugars. But they’re still not an ideal alternative because they’re highly acidic — which can contribute to cavities in the same way eating sugar does. The acid in diet sodas eats away at your enamel.
Let’s put on our old science class thinking caps here: diet sodas have a pH level of about 2-3. For reference, water is neutral (with a pH level of 7), and battery acid clocks in at a pH level of 0.
What’s even more shocking? If you’re thinking you’re in the clear because you don’t chug your sodas (you’re more of the sipper type), you’re actually not. Every time you sip, bacteria begin to attack your enamel. It takes about 20 minutes for your mouth to neutralize the acid, but each time you sip, that battle starts over.
Myth 6: You should brush your teeth after breakfast.
We’re not trying to be divisive here, but you’re either Team #BrushBeforeBreakfast or Team #BrushAfterBreakfast. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), neither team is wrong, but there’s one important thing to keep in mind if you’re in the #After camp.
Popular breakfast foods like fruit juice, fruit (fresh or dried), pastries, and bread can wind up being harmful if you brush your teeth immediately after breakfast before heading out the door. It’s all because these foods all have those enamel-softening acids that need time to be neutralized before your teeth are strong again and ready for brushing. So if you’re using mouthwash and brushing immediately after breakfast, you’re contributing to enamel wear.
Brushing before breakfast may be a better idea for those that have more hectic mornings, or those that just simply can’t wait the recommended 30 minutes after eating breakfast to brush your teeth.
Myth 7: Flossing creates space between your teeth.
Flossing removes food debris around your gums and teeth and is a crucial step in your daily at-home oral care routine. What it doesn’t do? Create space between your teeth. Your teeth are firmly in their place — and you’re doing a lot more harm if you don’t floss.
If you’re just starting a floss routine, you may experience bleeding gums after the first few sessions. Don’t worry — this is normal! But if things persist, check in with your dentist, as it might be a sign of a more severe dental issue.
Myth 8: You only need to go to the dentist if your teeth hurt.
Finally, we’re ending with one of the most commonly heard dental myths around — that you only need to go to the dentist if you have a concern or a toothache.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Prioritizing your twice-annual cleanings is the best way to tackle any dental issues before they start — because a lot of them won’t cause you any pain or trouble until it’s too late. Plus, with dental insurance, these visits are no additional out-of-pocket cost. So why wouldn’t you go, especially given the already high (but rising) costs of dental care?
As with most things related to your health, prevention is key. And during each visit, you can ask your dental hygienist and dentist about how to best take care of your unique smile (and maybe debunk a few other dental myths you might have heard over the years). Spending your lunch break in the dentist’s chair twice a year can save you hours (or days) recovering from a major dental procedure that could have been avoided — and that’s no myth. That’s a fact!