Just as there are many myths about general health practices — for example, you really don’t need to wait an hour after eating before going for a swim — myths concerning dental health are unfortunately abundant. So abundant, in fact, that we’re providing this follow-up to our blog post — “Common Dental Health Myths” — to cover those we lacked space for originally.
Unlike the harmless belief about waiting before swimming, however, mistaking the following fallacies for fact can result in real damage to your oral health. Here’s what you may believe, and what you need to know!
Chewing Sugar-free Gum is as Good as Brushing
This myth likely came about because chewing sugar-free gum can neutralize the plaque that forms on teeth and stimulates saliva production — which can wash away food particles that stick between teeth or linger in the mouth, thereby discouraging cavities. Gum containing xylitol can help reduce bacteria in the mouth. So while chewing sugarless gum can occasionally be handy as a quick fix when you’re not able to brush, it is definitely not a replacement for regular brushing! And you shouldn’t lean on it too much. Take a travel brushing kit with you to work or school so you can brush after lunch or during break time.
If you just enjoy chewing sugar-free gum, be aware that not all are equal. As Dr. Albert Song of 209 NYC Dental advises, look for gum brands that have the American Dental Association (ADA) seal. “Brands that earn the seal prove their products are safe and the ADA has inspected them. Only sugar-free gums with safe sugar substitutes receive this seal.”
Flossing Isn’t Necessary
In some countries, flossing isn’t a commonplace or even a dentist-recommended practice, which could account for this myth. According to a research paper published in the National Library of Medicine, up to 80 percent of interdental plaque (the plaque that forms between teeth) may be removed by flossing, resulting in a significantly reduced incidence of caries (cavities) and prevention of periodontal (gum) disease. The paper goes on to cite that one in five Americans never flosses, and only 40 percent of those who do floss daily – which makes this myth somewhat international.
Let’s state this in plain language: flossing is the second line of defense against cavities and periodontal disease — brushing being the first. But brushing alone isn’t adequate in removing the afore-mentioned plaque, which is a sticky film composed mainly of bacteria. It forms on your teeth when starches and sugars in food interact with bacteria normally found in your mouth. Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once a day removes plaque, but it very quickly forms again. Our blog post — “Types of Gum Disease” — explains this process in greater detail.
No matter where you’re from, or what oral care practices you grew up with, daily flossing is very much necessary in preventing cavities and periodontal disease.
Stop Flossing if Your Gums Bleed
Dr. Julie Boudreault of Milltown Dental makes this succinct observation: “Irregular flossing could be why your gums are bleeding! When you neglect to floss consistently, plaque and bacteria build-up. Eventually, your gums become inflamed and once this happens, they will bleed easily. This does not mean you should stop flossing; rather, it means you must floss far more. As you develop your flossing habit, your gums should stop bleeding.”
If you have just begun flossing and your gums bleed, the bleeding typically stops after seven to 10 days of regular flossing. Our blog post — “How to Floss Your Teeth Like a Pro” — covers proper flossing techniques that effectively prevent plaque build-up without injuring your gums. However, as you’ll learn in our next myth, if you have been flossing regularly for quite some time and your gums suddenly begin to bleed, schedule an appointment with your dentist. The same holds true if you’re new to flossing, and your gums continue to bleed after the first 10 days.
It’s Normal for Gums to Bleed Sometimes
No. While this may seem somewhat contradictory after the previous myth, bleeding gums are a symptom of periodontal disease. Bleeding gums during brushing can indicate gingivitis, which is the first stage of periodontal disease. Fortunately, gingivitis is also the easiest to reverse with the help of your dentist and an improved oral care routine.
You may have seen the toothpaste commercial that asks if bleeding gums should be a cause for concern. However, the commercial doesn’t communicate the urgency of seeing your dentist as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment to prevent the progress of the disease. Bleeding gums always indicate a condition that needs immediate attention. Brushing with one particular toothpaste brand won’t treat the cause. Your dentist may recommend a particular brand after an examination and diagnosis of gingivitis, but attempting to diagnose and treat yourself based on a TV commercial will put your oral health at serious risk.
Don’t Go to the Dentist if You’re Pregnant
Don’t skip your regular dental examination and cleaning because you’re pregnant. As an article by Dental Associates notes, “Your dentist can help discuss changes in oral health during pregnancy and what to look for. There is a connection between your health during pregnancy and your baby’s health, so visiting your dentist during pregnancy is essential.”
The ADA, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics all encourage women to get dental care while pregnant. A study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) concluded that it’s safe for pregnant women to undergo dental treatment, including procedures that use local anesthetics.
Returning to the subject of gingivitis, a condition known as “pregnancy gingivitis” — an inflammation of the gums that can cause swelling, tenderness and bleeding — may occur, and will require treatment by your dentist.
Also be assured that X-rays can be taken with no risk to you or your baby. Your dentist or hygienist will cover you with a leaded apron that shields the abdomen, and a leaded collar to protect your thyroid. X-rays are important because they can reveal unseen oral health issues that are crucial to diagnose and treat before it affects you and your baby. Our blog post — “What You Need to Know About Dental Care During Pregnancy” — covers this important topic in detail.
Milk is Good for Teeth, So Send Your Baby to Bed with a Bottle of Milk
It is true that milk provides calcium and other minerals that are essential for healthy bones and teeth. It also contains lactose, which is sugar. As Cooley Smiles observes, “It is still broken down by bacteria in the same way that it breaks down fructose and glucose. As the sugar is broken down, acid is produced that causes your teeth to decay. This is why it is recommended that you don’t let young children sleep with bottles. Milk can pool in their mouths, creating a feasting ground for bacteria and leading to significant dental problems.”
You may wonder why that would matter, since primary teeth — also known as “baby” teeth — fall out anyway to be replaced by permanent teeth. Primary teeth are instrumental in establishing favorable conditions for the permanent teeth to emerge and position themselves correctly — which is why we recommend that children receive their first dental visit shortly after their initial teeth begin emerging. In addition, primary teeth allow your child to chew and speak at an early age — thereby being essential to proper development. Keeping your child’s primary teeth healthy will set the stage for healthy permanent teeth!
Charcoal Toothpaste is Better than Traditional Toothpaste
This is a relatively recent myth, emerging from social media influencers who promote the sketchy “benefits” of charcoal activated toothpaste. Once a boutique item, charcoal toothpaste is now being produced by major brands and sold in supermarkets and drugstores throughout the United States, which can lead consumers to believe it’s a good replacement for traditional toothpaste.
“Charcoal toothpaste is marketed for whitening but in reality, it offers little protection for teeth,” says Dr. Song. “Charcoal toothpaste actually works against teeth by absorbing protective agents meant to keep teeth healthy and strong.”
Clinical studies of the efficacy (effectiveness) of such toothpastes are lacking, so no one can yet definitively claim that charcoal toothpaste whitens or cleans your teeth better than any other toothpaste. As our blog post — “Should You Use Charcoal Toothpaste?” — covers, risks include the following:
- Charcoal toothpaste is too abrasive for regular use; it can wear down tooth enamel, thereby making your teeth appear more yellow as the tooth’s underlying dentin is exposed.
- Most brands don’t contain fluoride, which helps keep tooth enamel strong and protects against cavities.
- Charcoal toothpaste can stain teeth; charcoal particles can get caught in the small cracks of teeth and leave teeth gray or black around the edges.
- Because charcoal toothpaste is a new trend, its long-term effect on dental restorations — such as veneers, crowns or bridges — isn’t yet known.
The Take-Home Message
As we hope you’ve learned, what you’ve been led to believe about dental health isn’t necessarily true. This is definitely a case of what you don’t know can hurt you, so the best person to dispel myths and give you the facts is your dentist! At NK Family Dental, it is our mission to provide the highest quality and most compassionate oral care to our Chicago patients, including both dental and periodontal services. Our practice is trusted for advanced oral surgery procedures and comfortable root canal treatment.
Our team of experienced, dedicated dental professionals will help address your oral health concerns, and determine the best solution for you based on your individual situation. We strive to identify treatment options that fit your needs.
Our dental specialists include our general dentist, Dr. Nilofer Khan, our endodontist, Dr. Sabek, and our periodontist, Dr. Amir Danesh. Dr. Danesh is a board-certified periodontist and Diplomat of the American Board of Periodontology. He has contributed to the publication of two books, as well as published over 20 papers in prestigious dental research journals.
We understand that the main concern you may have is cost, which is why we accept all major PPO plans for dental insurance and also offer our in-house dental plan. Please see our financing page for more information.