Debunking 8 Common Dental Myths & Misconceptions

by | Aug 6, 2019 | Dental Health

You can find anything on the internet these days!

There’s a lot of misinformation floating around. We’d like to take the time to debunk a few of the most common dental myths we’ve heard lately.

Myth: Mouthwash is essential for dental health

The truth: You just can’t rinse away the bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease. They’re sticky and the only way to remove them is by physical means — brushing, flossing, and regular dental cleanings.

These sticky bacteria are known as a biofilm. Think of them as being like the wax on a car. You can’t just squirt it with a hose. It must be buffed off.

Alcohol-based mouthwashes may freshen your breath, but may also contribute to dry mouth. Also known as xerostomia, dry mouth can actually make your breath smell worse. Sugar-free xylitol mints might be a better choice for getting rid of bad breath.

Keep reading: American Dental Association guide to mouthwash and therapeutic mouth rinses

Myth: Oil pulling helps your dental health

The truth: There is absolutely no peer-reviewed scientific research indicating oil pulling has any benefits.

In case you didn’t know, oil pulling is the practice of rinsing and swishing oils (commonly coconut or olive oils) around your mouth to whiten teeth or achieve other health benefits.

Keep reading: The Wikipedia page on oil pulling includes many high-quality sources to debunk this dubious practice and clear dental myth.

Myth: You should be using charcoal toothpaste

The truth: Just like oil pulling, there is no evidence to support the benefits of charcoal toothpaste.

Health fads come and go. Lately we’ve been hearing a lot of hype about activated charcoal. You can find it in smoothies, toothpaste, and even ice cream. However, there is no real evidence to suggest charcoal toothpastes whiten teeth or provide any other health benefits.

There is actually research showing the abrasiveness of charcoal can wear away your enamel. You should always use products provent to be for safe and effective! You only get one set of teeth — take care of them!

Keep reading: ADA’s list of recommended toothpastes and other products.

Myth: Natural sugars are less harmful for your teeth than processed sugars

The truth: Bacteria don’t discriminate. So-called natural sugars like those found in fruit and juice are just as appealing to bacteria as the sugars found in a candy bar.

Bacteria use sugar for energy and the process results in cavity-causing acid. The source of the sugar is irrelevant — it’s the acid which damages teeth and creates cavities.

Of course it’s okay to eat fruit and have a glass of juice with brunch. Just be mindful of your consumption of all sugars and limit the amount of time your teeth are exposed to high-sugar foods.

Keep reading: The ADA’s guide to a mouth-healthy diet.

Myth: Tooth loss is genetic

The truth: Tooth loss is 100% preventable with early intervention and professional care.

We’ve heard many of our patients say something like, “Well, my mom and dad lost their teeth so I’ll probably end up losing mine, too.” This is a self-defeating attitude and it isn’t rooted in science.

Tooth loss due to decay is not genetic.

Even in the past 10-20 years, there have been amazing advances in dental technology, both in at-home care and what we use here in the office. With thorough brushing and flossing, regular checkups, preventive care, and restorative treatments (when needed), it’s 100% possible to have healthy teeth for life.

Keep reading: Causes of tooth decay, according to The Mayo Clinic.

Myth: Crowns and fillings protect teeth against future decay

The truth: The reality is the opposite is true — once a tooth has been compromised by decay, we must be extra vigilant to prevent future decay.

If you’ve had a root canal or filling placed in a tooth, it is just as susceptible to decay as it was prior to the restorative process. Often if a second cavity develops or if decay advances the additional repair will be significantly more costly.

Remember, the only teeth that don’t get cavities are the teeth you’ve already lost.

Keep reading: How to prevent decay by the ADA.

Myth: They’re only teeth

The truth: More and more research is linking oral disease to systemic disease.

We’re seeing stronger connections between gum disease and other oral health issues with serious diseases like:

  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Strokes
  • Diabetes and diabetic complications
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Low birth-weight babies
  • Stomach, lung, kidney, and pancreatic cancers

Keep reading: The American Academy of Periodontology’s research into the link between dental health and whole-body health.

Myth: Dental x-rays are dangerous

The truth: Radiation is a scary word but in reality, dental x-rays do not pose a risk to your health.

In the grand scheme of things, virtually nothing we do on a day-to-day basis exposes us to a dangerous amount of radiation.

Everywhere we go, we’re exposed to what’s known as “background radiation” — essentially the amount of radiation we get just from living our daily lives.

Imagine walking through the security scanner at the airport. The scan is equal to 80 times the daily level of background radiation exposure. A chest x-ray at the hospital is equal to 1,000 times the background level of radiation.

When it comes to medical x-rays, dental images are very very low in radiation. A full set of dental x-rays (including 4 bitewing x-rays) is less than a single day’s background radiation. It’s about equal to what you’d get from flying in an airplane from Medford to Seattle.

Dental radiation safety is something we take seriously, taking every precaution and investing in imaging technology that uses the least radiation possible.

In other words, dental x-rays shouldn’t be on your list of things to worry about. Their ability to aid in the early detection of dental health problem is invaluable.

Keep reading: Chart to help you better understand the radiation exposure in the world around us.

Fact: Talk to your dentist!

If you’ve heard something about a product you want to try or about a food that might be good for your teeth, talk to your dentist. We’re always happy to answer your questions and explain the science behind common dental myths and misconceptions.

Schedule your appointment with Dr. James Catt today. Our office is here to help.

Dr. James Catt

Dr. James Catt

Dr. Catt graduated from Oregon Health Science University (OHSU) in 1997 and through his personalized and high-tech approach, has since become one of the most trusted dentists in the Rogue Valley. Dr. Catt is a member and past president of the Oregon Dental Association and is involved in the American Dental Association and Southern Oregon Dental Society. He’s also received recognition from the American College of Dentists and the International College of Dentists for his exceptional professional achievements, exemplary service, and dedication to the continued progress of dentistry.