Fact or fiction? Common Dental Myths

Although modern dentistry has come a long way, there are still many dental myths passed on by word of mouth. Lack of knowledge can do more harm than good.

Here is the truth about some common dental misconceptions: 

Myth – Good dental health can be inherited.
Fact – Inheritance plays a minor role. Proper brushing is mandatory for good oral health.

Myth – White teeth are healthier teeth
Fact – We may think they look better, but teeth aren’t meant to be pure white. You can help keep your teeth as white as possible by brushing regularly with a fluoride toothpaste and flossing.

Myth – If the tooth is not painful, there is no need for a root canal treatment.
Fact – Sometimes after the acute phase is over, the decayed tooth may not be painful. However if the infection is reached the tooth pulp/nerve then a root canal treatment is mandatory irrespective of whether the tooth is painful or not.

Myth – A sugarless chewing gum, along with xylitol, after a meal can be a substitute to brushing.
Fact – There is no substitute to regular brushing.

Myth – I have to see a dentist every six months.
Fact – Your dentist will tell you how often you should come in for a dental check-up, and if you have very good oral health, this may be no more than once every two years.

Myth – Removal of upper teeth affects vision.
Fact – Vision is not affected in any way by treatment of the upper teeth, including tooth extraction.

Myth – One set of dentures will last a lifetime.
Fact – Tissues beneath the dentures change over a period of time. Therefore, dentures need to be modified accordingly, and cannot be assumed to last a lifetime without any modifications.

Myth – Scaling/removal of tartar loosens the teeth.
Fact – Teeth are held in position by the bone. Tartar can sometimes bind the teeth together. Tartar causes inflammation of the gums and needs to be removed. After removal of this tartar there may be slight mobility of the teeth; however, this is necessary to ensure recovery of the health of the supporting structures.

Myth – There is fluoride in our water supply.
Fact – This may or may not be true. You can find out if there is fluoride in your water from your water supplier.

Myth – Baby toothpaste is better for young children.
Fact – Some baby toothpaste brands don’t have enough fluoride in them to help prevent tooth decay. Check the packaging and choose a brand that contains at least 1,000ppm of fluoride.

Myth – Only the sugar in sweets, cakes, fizzy drinks, and chocolate is bad for my teeth.
Fact – Myth, but it’s almost a fact. The truth is, acid produced by bacteria in your mouth is the cause of cavities. Any carbohydrate you eat can start that process.

Myth – There’s no need to brush milk teeth.

Fact – Even though your child will lose their milk teeth, they still have to be brushed. Establishing good habits early in life helps ensure life-long dental health. Brush your baby’s teeth twice daily from the moment their first tooth cuts through. Neglecting to take proper care of their baby teeth can cause problems with their bite, or permanent teeth, if they fall out too early.

Myth – I’ll need false teeth when I’m older.
Fact – Improvements in dental hygiene mean that more of us keep our natural teeth into old age.

Myth – Bad breath is only caused by not brushing your teeth properly.
Fact – Most cases (up to 90%) of halitosis (bad breath) are caused by bad oral hygiene. Certain illnesses can give you bad breath as well. So don’t be too quick to judge when that close-talking colleague offends with his foul smelling breath, it may not be his fault! Regular brushing, flossing, eating and drinking healthily, and taking plenty of exercise are the best ways to avoid bad breath.

Myth – If there is no visible problem with my teeth, I don’t have to see a dentist.

Fact – Just because your teeth look healthy doesn’t mean it is a good idea to skip going to the dentist. You should visit your dentist twice a year, for an exam and dental cleaning, to make sure your teeth stay healthy and any dental problems are treated before they become serious.

Myth – My parents had good dental health, so I don’t really have to worry about mine.
Fact – Though genetics may play a small role in determining your dental health, it is mostly up to you to take good care of your teeth and gums, to keep them healthy in the long term.

Myth – Brushing my teeth more than once a day can harm my enamel.
Fact – Most dentists recommend using a soft toothbrush to avoid being overly rough on gums and teeth. If you do so, you shouldn’t run into any problems brushing twice a day or — if possible — after each meal.

Myth – Chewing sugar-free gum after a meal is just as effective as brushing.
Fact – While chewing sugar-free gum can help clean parts of your teeth and freshen your breath after meals, it is no replacement for thoroughly brushing and flossing to remove dental plaque and debris.

Myth – I shouldn’t brush my teeth if my gums are bleeding.
Fact – When your gums bleed, it’s a sign that plaque and food particles are accumulating along your gum line, and the gums have become irritated and inflamed. Not brushing will cause the accumulation of more tartar, thereby aggravating the problem. If you notice your gums becoming more prone to bleeding, it is a good idea to thoroughly and gently brush and floss them at least twice a day. If the bleeding continues, visit your dentist.

Myth – If I have a toothache, placing an aspirin tablet next to the tooth will relieve pain.
Fact – At-home toothache remedies won’t correct your dental problems. Putting an aspirin tablet in direct contact with the soft tissues of your mouth will not help relieve a toothache, and can lead to painful chemical burns — don’t do it!

Myth Teeth whitening will damage my enamel.
Fact – The key ingredients in over-the-counter whitening products are hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, which work as oxidizing agents to remove stains on the surface of the enamel. White strips, trays, and pastes meant for at-home use usually contain about 3 to 10 percent of these active ingredients, and are generally considered safe.

Bleaching works by removing some of the teeth’s pigmentation, and if you bleach them too much and remove too much of the natural pigmentation, your teeth might begin to appear translucent. Some people could mistake this translucency for weakening of the enamel or damage to the teeth, but that’s not the case — it’s just a color change.

The side effects of too much bleaching include temporary tooth sensitivity and irritated gums, but there is no need to fear that using bleaching products will weaken your teeth. Some enamel loss is possible when using bleaching agents, but sometimes enamel has been found to remineralize itself over time.

Myth – All dental procedures must be avoided during pregnancy.
Fact – Although certain procedures, such as X-rays or dental surgery, should be avoided during pregnancy, regular dental treatments can often continue as usual. Dental treatments can only be done during the second trimester of pregnancy (4-6 months). During the first 3 or last 3 months of pregnancy, only emergency dental procedures to provide pain relief can be carried out.

Myth – All fillings will need to be replaced.
Fact – Fillings do have a life expectancy, but it depends on things like tooth wear and oral hygiene. If you keep up with your dental routine, you’re less likely to have problems, and your fillings may last longer.

Myth – You’ll know when you have a cavity.
Fact – Sometimes you will know it, but at that point, it has usually spread to larger proportions than it would have if it had been found at a routine dental screening. With timely checkups, your dentist can find a cavity before it causes pain.

Myth – Once a tooth is treated, the decay stops.
Fact – Once you get a cavity filled, the decayed spot is removed. If you take care of your teeth, the decay from the spot that was filled will most likely stay clear.

Myth – Cavities are most likely between teeth.
Fact – Anywhere bacteria can hide that you can’t, or aren’t able to, reach with a toothbrush or floss, is a likely place for decay. Use a mouthwash to help reach tough spots.

Myth – Clenching and grinding may lead to cavities.
Fact – This one is a myth, but not far from fact. Cavities come from acid-producing bacteria. But clenching and grinding are among the worst things you can do to your teeth. With normal chewing, teeth touch for a tiny fraction of a millisecond, which causes little stress. But clenching and grinding put a huge amount of pressure on your teeth. The strain can eventually cause cracks and fractures of your teeth, which speeds up tooth decay.

Myth – Gaps in teeth lead to cavities.
Fact – Bigger gaps are easier to keep clean. So as long as they are free of bacteria, wide spaces are less prone to decay. Keep an eye on small gaps, though. Food may get stuck there and lead to cavities if it’s not cleaned out.

Myth – Chips and cracks in teeth lead to decay.
Fact – Cracks and chips create a home for bacteria where your toothbrush can’t reach. This can hasten decay. Use a fluoride mouth rinse to get to hidden spots.

Myth – Sensitivity in teeth means you have decay.
Fact – While cavities can cause some sensitivity to cold and sweets, not all do. Other things might be making your teeth hurt.

Myth – Cavities are the only reason for root canals.
Fact – You need a root canal if the nerve inside a tooth is damaged. An unfilled cavity can lead to a root canal, but so can other things, like clenching and grinding.

Myth – Babies can’t get cavities.
Fact – Primary or “baby” teeth can get cavities that spread to other teeth if left untreated.

Myth – Mouthwash with alcohol is good to use.
Fact – The use of mouthwash containing alcohol has been linked with oral cancer since the 1970s. Frequent use of these mouthwashes can lead to other dental problems.  Mouthwash should not have alcohol. “Alcohol is dehydrating and denaturing to this natural ecology of the mouth called the oral microbiome.”

Myth – Wisdom teeth serve no purpose.
Fact – If your wisdom teeth are not causing you any problems, you may want to think about leaving them where they are. Research out of Japan shows that the pulp inside your molars contain stem cells similar to those found in bone marrow. Some experts say that banking those stem cells could lead to the ability to regrow teeth in the future.

Myth – Eating fruit before you go to bed cleans your teeth.
Fact – While containing necessary nutrients, a lot of fruits contain sugary substances that are not good for your teeth before bed.

Myth – There is no harm in sharing toothbrushes.
Fact – It is always best to keep to your own toothbrush, because your unique bacteria does remain on the brush, and some bacteria simply should not be shared in this way.

Myth – All mouthwashes do the same job.
Fact – Mouthwashes, like toothpastes, contain different ingredients to achieve different results. Some ingredients are not suitable for all individuals. People with a dry mouth, those who suffer with mouth ulcers, and those who have sensitivity should avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol.

Myth – Brushing your teeth harder than normal is a better way to keep them clean.
Fact – To maintain a healthy mouth, it is recommended that we brush for two minutes, twice a day with a soft to medium toothbrush, using a gentle circular brushing motion, with fluoridated toothpaste, and cleaning the spaces in between the teeth with floss or an interdental brush.

Myth – Dental Procedures are always painful.
Fact – Most dental procedures are now done under local anaesthesia and are painless.

Myth – Root canal treatments require lot of visits to the dentist.
Fact – With newer techniques, single sitting root canal treatments are gaining rapid popularity.

Myth – Even after doing a root canal, the tooth will eventually come out.
Fact – After doing a proper root canal and maintaining proper oral hygiene, the tooth can last you a lifetime.

About Mark C. Marchbanks, D.D.S.

Dr. Mark Marchbanks has practiced dentistry in Arlington Texas since 1983. He enjoys caring for patients young and old. You can find Dr. Marchbanks on
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