9 Popular Dental Myths Debunked
We worry a lot about what we put into our bodies, but usually a lot less about the effect it may have on our precious teeth and gums. Without a functioning and healthy mouth, how will we ever enjoy the delicious foods and beverages that mess up our teeth and gums in the first place? It’s quite the vicious cycle, but we talked to top NYC dentist Dr. Todd Bertman from Advanced Dental Arts to dispel, prove and explain some of the most popular dental myths so you can smile (and binge) with confidence. Click through for his wisdom, which some of us had surgically removed years ago.
Myth #1: Flossing isn’t necessary.
Pretty much false. By not flossing, you are allowing food and bacteria to settle in your mouth. This increases the chances of cavities, gum disease and bad breath. “If you’re not the flossing type, there are alternatives like interdental brushes, oral irrigators or increasing the number of trips to a hygienist,” says Dr. Bertman. Would anyone actually prefer the latter?
Myth #2: Lemon juice is bad for your tooth enamel.
True. In fact, it’s one of the most acidic liquids you can put in your mouth. You may remember from 8th grade science that acidity is measured on a pH scale with values ranging from one to 14. The closer to one, the more acidic and destructive to your enamel. Seven is neutral with 14 considered “basic,” but a “good basic” (unlike that girl sipping a PSL and wearing last year’s Uggs). “Tap water and saliva are close to seven, but wine, for example, is approximately a three. Even though it’s quite acidic, lemon juice (a two) is actually 10 times more acidic,” explains Dr. Bertman.
Myth #3: You should brush after every meal.
Kind of. While brushing after every meal can be a good habit, it’s more important to use a soft brush and a good technique so that you don’t wear away the enamel. Dr. Bertman also advises patients to rinse with water prior to brushing, as to eliminate any high acid foods that can soften your teeth and damage tooth structure upon contact.
Myth #4: Bleaching teeth can make them irreversibly sensitive.
False. “In the 16 years of bleaching patients’ teeth, irreversible sensitivity has never happened,” Dr. Bertman claims. But temporary sensitivity is common. “You and your dentist should avoid getting gel on the gums or in areas of recession and exposed roots,” he suggests.
Myth #5: A tooth can dissolve in soda overnight.
False. While a tooth won’t dissolve overnight, the phosphoric acid of soda will surely damage the enamel and the cementum of the root surface. “Keep in mind that saliva will protect teeth and bring up the pH level to dilute the acidity,” Dr. Bertman reminds us. But should we ditch the Diet Coke forever? “The best thing is moderation,” he says. “Allow the beverage to pass your teeth by using a straw. Tfees straws are made perfectly for this purpose.”
Myth #6: Chewing gum can loosen your fillings.
True, but there’s a catch. Chewing gum can absolutely loosen fillings and even aggravate problems associated with TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorders), but gum can be a good thing. “It creates the flow of saliva and can help protect your teeth against cavities,” says Dr. Bertman. If the gum contains Xylitol, even better. The sugar substitute prevents acid production from the bacteria in the mouth and, according to studies, has shown to reverse small cavities. Keep chomping!
Myth #7: Foods with high acidity can erode your gums.
False. Foods and beverages with high acidity won’t erode your gums, but they can erode the areas of the teeth and roots where there is gum recession. “This tooth erosion becomes abrasion if you brush your teeth soon after ingesting acidic foods or beverages,” warns Dr. Bertman. “Your teeth become softened and more susceptible to damage. This is why we advise patients to rinse with water before brushing.” As with most things in life, hydration is key.
Myth #8: Coffee stains your teeth more than any other food or beverage.
True, but there are other factors when it comes to stains. There are three types of stains: intrinsic (forming within the tooth as teeth develop), extrinsic (caused by colorful food and beverages) and age-related discoloration. “Black coffee and teas with tannins appear to be the most common offenders for extrinsic stains,” says Dr. Bertman. “Opting for green tea would be a better choice.” Other culprits? Red wine, soy sauce, cranberry juice, cola and tomato sauce. Looks like Italian night is off the table.
Myth #9: Dairy products are great for your teeth.
True. Milk, cheese and yogurt have proven to benefit overall teeth health. “Dairy products contain casein, a protein that combines with phosphorus and calcium to protect the enamel from bacterial acids. This unique trifecta of nutrients also helps to protect against dental decay and erosion,” says Dr. Bertman. Apologies to those who are lactose intolerant. Clearly we can’t have it all.