Are silver fillings dangerous? Can teeth whiteners damage your teeth? Is sugar the main cause of cavities? When it comes to dental health, it is sometimes difficult to separate fact from fiction.
Yet research shows that your mouth can speak volumes about your overall health. With this in mind, here are five common dental myths — and a handful of additional facts — that you should know, courtesy of dental health specialists:
No. 1: Sugar is the main cause of tooth decay.
Myth: We've all heard that sugar can rot your teeth, but it turns out it's not the worst offender. The real culprit is bacteria that’s formed as it breaks down sucrose.
“The chemical name for table sugar is sucrose – it contains one molecule of glucose and one of fructose. It isn’t the sugar per se that it is the problem; it is what happens to the sugar in your mouth as the bacteria use it as their energy source,” the American Dental Association tells Newsmax Health.
“Cavities, or tooth decay, is the destruction of your tooth enamel, the hard, outer layer of your teeth. It can be a problem for children, teens and adults. Plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, constantly forms on your teeth. When you eat or drink foods containing sugars, the bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack tooth enamel. The stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with your teeth and over time the enamel can break down. This is when cavities can form. A cavity is a little hole in your tooth.”
The breakdown of sucrose happens when you digest carbohydrates. We often think of carbs as junk foods, but healthy foods like vegetables, fruits and grains also fall into this category.
No. 2: Mouthwash with alcohol is the most effective.
Myth: In fact, the best type of mouthwash has NO alcohol in it. Alcohol can be dehydrating and denaturing, according to experts.
Mouthwash containing alcohol has also been linked with oral cancer.
No. 3: Whiter teeth are healthier.
Myth: Although they may look pearly white, whiter teeth aren't necessarily healthier. White teeth may still hide an infection or cavities between the teeth.
The natural color of teeth varies from one person to another and someone with healthy teeth may have a naturally darker shade of white.
No. 4: Brushing your bleeding gums is a bad idea.
Myth: Brushing is good for both your teeth and gums. Brushing your gums, even if they're bleeding, helps get rid of built up plaque. Too much plaque can cause inflammation, gingivitis and gum disease.
Dr. Joseph Banker told Medical Daily that patients with sensitive gums shouldn't brush too hard. He suggests brushing at an angle to avoid irritation. Banker says brushing and flossing the surrounding areas will help keep inflammation at bay.
No. 5: Flossing isn’t important if you brush regularly.
Myth: Flossing is hugely important. If you aren't flossing, you're not cleaning over 30 percent of your tooth surface that a regular brush can't reach.
Bacteria found in those hard to reach places can case everything from gum disease to decay and pain. Flossing is an inexpensive and essential component of oral health.
No. 6: An aspirin can prevent tooth pain.
Fact: Some doctors believe that an aspirin placed directly next to the gum may temporarily relieve some amount of pain, if the pain is coming directly from the gum.
But there is a caveat: If the pain is coming from the tooth structure itself, aspirin won't do the trick unless swallowed.
No. 7: Teeth whitening will damage your enamel.
Fact: The main ingredients in over-the-counter teeth whitening products are hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide, which remove stains on the tooth's surface enamel.
According to experts, there are many over-the-counter products that can damage your enamel if not used in moderation. One of the most common side effects of teeth whitening is tooth sensitivity.
Researchers at Ohio State University College of Dentistry have shown that enamel loss can occur when bleaching teeth.
No. 8: You don't need your wisdom teeth.
Partly fact: While it's true your wisdom teeth are a vestigial organ, like your tonsils or appendix, that doesn't necessarily mean you need to have them taken out.
In fact, Japanese researchers say that the pulp inside your wisdom teeth may contain stem cells similar to those found in bone marrow. Some experts say harvesting those stem cells could lead to the ability to regrow teeth in the future.
No. 9: Silver fillings don't need to be replaced.
Unclear: Whether or not silver amalgam fillings are safe has been an issue of hotly contested debate among dentists. Silver-colored fillings are made with roughly 52 percent mercury.
Some research suggests mercury leeches out over time from these silver fillings, especially if they are breaking down. But most dentists don't advise replacing them if they are in good shape.
Mercury has been linked to autoimmune diseases, neurological issues, chronic diseases, and mental disorders. The concern is that patients who grind their teeth, chew gum, or drink hot or carbonated drinks may be exposed to higher levels of mercury vapors.
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