It’s natural to want to take care of your teeth, and in recent years, there has been a growing trend towards improved oral health care that has come in conjunction with decreases in unhealthy activities such as smoking and drinking sugary sodas. This has had - and will continue to have - immense benefits on the people who not only cut back on negative behaviors, but also actively bring positive behaviors into their oral health routine. Unfortunately, however, the increased attention to tooth and mouth care has also led to the creation of numerous myths about oral hygiene, which may actually be counterproductive when people cannot differentiate fact from fiction. So what exactly is an oral health care myth, and why is it important to avoid incorporating it into your daily routine? Here are five myths about oral hygiene and why you should ignore them:
- Whitening weakens teeth.
This may have been true before the 1990s, back when bleaching procedures used acidic chemicals that wore down tooth enamel and made people more susceptible to tooth decay and other problems. However, nowadays whitening procedures are completely safe and use pH neutral bleaching materials so that people can get the white teeth they want without having to worry about the effect on their oral health. As a result, don’t let fear of weakening your teeth stop you from whitening them. However, with that said, it’s also important to not swing completely towards the other end of the spectrum and assume that white teeth are necessarily healthy teeth; carrying out whitening procedures only takes care of surface issues, and you still need to make sure that you are brushing and flossing regularly, using fluoride rinse, and visiting your dentist every six months for a checkup.
- Never brush bleeding gums.
The irony of this myth is that NOT brushing your gums can actually cause plaque buildup, which leads to gum disease such as gingivitis and symptoms such as bleeding gums. That’s why it’s so important to brush your gums and tongue to avoid inflammation and the breeding of harmful bacteria. However, noticing that their gums are bleeding turns many people away from the idea of brushing this part of their mouth, as they are afraid that they will only make the problem worse - whether it is caused by brushing too hard or by more serious problems such as gum disease. However, noticing bleeding gums is not a reason to stop brushing - instead, it just indicates that you need to change your brushing strategy to accommodate this issue. Try brushing at an angle to avoid irritating your gums any further.
- Too much sugar is bad for your teeth.
This sounds like a no-brainer - after all, every dentist tells you basically from your first visit that consuming sugar leads to cavities, plaque, gingivitis, and a host of other maladies. However, fully accepting this myth as fact often means that people think that as long as they cut sugar out of their diet, their mouth should be healthy. This is simply not true - a sugar-free diet is not helpful if you also have poor oral hygiene habits. Likewise, eating some sugar is okay as long as you take care of your teeth by brushing and flossing several times a day.
- Aspirin can help with toothache, but you don’t need to swallow it.
The myth goes that placing an aspirin next to a tooth that is hurting you will make the pain go away. However, the myth arises from the simplification of the observation that an aspirin placed on an aching gum will temporarily numb that area. Extending this to toothache is scientifically inaccurate - if the pain is coming from the actual root of the tooth, you have to swallow the aspirin so that it can enter your bloodstream and approach the tooth nerve from there. It’s important to know, though, that this is still just a pain relief solution and you need to see a dentist to take care of a chronic toothache.
- Flossing doesn’t really matter.
Any dentist would point out the flaws in this myth, as they know that flossing is one of the most important steps you can take to care for your oral hygiene. Not only does it clean out food particles that can become lodged in your teeth and cause cavities, but it also lowers the amount of bacteria in your mouth, which can breed and lead to gum disease, decay, chronic pain, and bad breath. Flossing is cheap, easy to do, and a necessary step to add to your daily oral health routine.