While the Internet has proven to be a boon, as it is rightly called the information highway, one unfortunate side effect of this has been the extent to which myths and untruths become so common, that they are then widely mistaken as facts.
As a dentist, in everyday practice, I often come across people regularly espousing the same myths that I have heard time and again.
Thus today, I wish to debunk some of these myths and misconceptions.
- Brushing Really Hard Will Lead to Cleaner Teeth
The number of times I have disappointedly told patients that brushing really hard is the reason they have dental problems is more than I can count. Unfortunately, brushing vigorously leads to abrasion of teeth, leading to loss of enamel and sensitivity, along with a higher propensity of gum problems, such as bleeding. Thus, brushing lightly but firmly, ensuring that all the plaque (the layer on the teeth from food) is dislodged is enough to maintain everyday oral heal
- Using A Hard Bristled Brush is The Best Way to Clean Teeth
Another common misconception is using hard bristled toothbrushes. This again leads to abrasion of teeth, leading to people as young as 40 with sensitive teeth. Instead, using a medium bristled brush is the best option. If you have a history of dental sensitivity or gum pain, then a soft bristled brush is your best bet against any further damage to your gums and teeth.
- Baking Soda Leads to Teeth Whitening
One of the ‘easiest and cheapest’ hacks to whiten teeth online is the prophetic advice to use baking soda. Just using a small pinch of baking soda on teeth leads to removal of yellow stains, leaving teeth looking whiter and brighter. Unfortunately, as is the case with most Instagram fads, this is far from the truth. Baking soda is again a highly abrasive agent; the fact that it is often used for cleaning ovens should give you an idea of how abrasive it can be. Thus, using it on your teeth will do you more harm, as a proper cleaning of teeth, using specialised periodontal instruments, by a specialist trained in dental cleaning (such as a dental hygienist) is the best way to ensure removal of stains.
- It Is More Important To Brush In The Morning Than At Night
While it is absolutely essential to brush twice a day, both morning and night, if for any reason you can manage to do only one of the two, then please make sure it is the night brushing! While it is understandable that brushing in the morning is needed to get rid of the bad breath and to feel fresh, but actually, brushing at night is far more important. This is because if someone does not brush at night, then the plaque and corrosive acids tend to wreak havoc on the teeth all night long. However, if someone does brush at night before sleeping, then even if they’re hard pressed for time in the morning, can make do with a quick gargle of mouthwash.
- Diet Soda is Better than Regular Soda
Soft drinks are bad for your teeth, period. While the acidity levels may vary slightly between brands and flavours, all of them still have a low enough pH to cause corrosion of teeth. If you can, always use a straw when drinking fizzy drinks, as this will minimise the effect and direct contact of the fizz with teeth. However, keep your intake of fizzy drinks down to bare minimum either way if you want your teeth to last a lifetime.
- Braces are just for Aesthetic Purposes
Almost everyone believes that braces are just for straightening teeth, so that a person’s smile can look beautiful. While the aesthetic purpose of braces is what is often referred to when marketing braces, the reality is that braces tend to help treat misalignment of teeth. This includes crowded teeth, and teeth that are so out of place, that they cause other problems such as mouth breathing. These issues can lead to bigger problems in the future. Furthermore, misaligned teeth are almost always more difficult to brush, leading to higher chances of cavities, food retention, and plaque in such cases. Thus, while the aesthetic element of braces is undeniable, in several cases, there may be a genuine medical reason to get braces.
- You Should Brush Immediately After Eating
Brushing twice a day, morning and night, is the norm. However, some people make the mistake of assuming that brushing immediately after meals helps ensure that teeth remain cleaner for longer. However, immediately after meals, the pH of saliva goes down, which is a physiological response of the body to food, to aid in digestion. Thus, brushing at this, especially if it is done vigorously, could lead to more harm than good. Thus, simply gargling with water after meals, to ensure any loosely lodged food is removed, is a better practice, rather than brushing.
- Baby Teeth Can be Brushed with Fingers
While baby teeth might seem tiny and cute, they are just as susceptible to caries and cavities as adult teeth. In fact, baby teeth are more susceptible to cavities, as milk teeth have a thinner layer of enamel and dentin compared with adult teeth. Thus, as soon as teeth erupt, they need to be cleaned with a ‘baby toothbrush’, a small finger sized brush with very soft bristles. This ensures that the child becomes used to the idea of brushing from an early age. There have been cases of children as young as 1.5 years with cavities and caries, which is often due to the parent’s belief that such young children’s teeth can be cleaned with their finger.
So these were a few widely held beliefs and myths about oral health.
The best way to ensure that your oral health is in the best possible shape, is by visiting the dentist regularly, and following a diligent oral care routine, involving regularly brushing and flossing. If in doubt, always consult your dentist, and try to avoid following trends and fads you read online.