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Oral Health: Dental Myths You Should Not Consider

Dentistry is one of those professions where fear and the lack of education make it easy for myths to propagate. For the average patient, being able to differentiate between a dental fact and a dental myth can be challenging because people don’t even know what sorts of questions to ask of his/her dental professional! Whether the myth is surrounding the daily homecare regimen or if it pertains to the technical side of restorative dentistry, it is important for patients to have the truth when it comes to the complex profession of dentistry!  

Myth: Only children need fluoride

This myth is one of the most common myths that we hear in dentistry. While children have traditionally been the patients that receive professionally applied fluoride at the end of the dental appointment (because that is the population that insurance companies cover it for), the reality is that the older population has far more risk factors that would justify the use for it. Children absolutely need topical fluoride during tooth development and until they are more adept at brushing and flossing.  However, the older the patient becomes the more risk factors that he/she will have, such as medications that cause dry mouth (a HIGH likelihood of tooth decay), extensive crown and bridge work that is highly susceptible to decay along the gumline, and recession that causes sensitivity and an increased likelihood of root decay. 

Patients unfortunately confuse what is truly necessary with what the insurance company will pay for. They assume that if the insurance company doesn’t cover the procedure, then it must not be necessary. While it should absolutely make financial sense for these companies to weigh prevention against future costs, that it not the reality. Once the patient has been educated on this fact, he/she can then weigh the out-of-pocket cost of prevention on the future potential out-of-cost expenses that he/she may incur. 

Myth: All mouth rinses are the same

Just like some vitamins are for your bones and some are for your muscles, not all mouth rinses have the same indications for usage.  Oral health requires both healthy teeth as well as healthy gums. A rinse that is good for your teeth isn’t going to be beneficial to your gums. There really isn’t a “multivitamin” version of mouthwash that addresses all oral health needs. The ones that market themselves that way don’t really have enough of any one of the necessary ingredients. It is best to use two different rinses. A fluoride rinse (such as ACT) helps strengthen teeth, reduce sensitivity, and help prevent tooth decay (cavities). An antimicrobial rinse (such as Listerine) helps to reduce the amount of bacteria that causes gingivitis. If you have gums that bleed or are concerned about bad breath, this rinse would be indicated. 

Be mindful that all Listerine products are NOT indicated for the gums. While the company’s original name recognition came from helping to aid in healthy gums and the prevention of gingivitis, they have progressively expanded into the fluoridated mouth rinse sector as well. Listerine DOES contain alcohol…and the alcohol is necessary for the uptake of the essential oils (making it effective), and without the alcohol, this rinse is worthless. There are antimicrobial rinses that can be effective without alcohol (ie. Natural Dentist, Closys, Chlorhexidine), but Listerine zero is not one of them. 

The bottom line is that searching for a mouth rinse is not one stop shopping. To get the best overall health, it is recommended to use both an antimicrobial rinse (in the morning) and fluoridated rinse (at bedtime). 

Myth: Crowns are “fake teeth”

Patients will often say to me “all of my teeth are fake.” Crowns are simply a cap or a cover for the tooth. If the root is still present, then the tooth is “real”. Because there is still a root, there is still the possibility of tooth decay under a crown. That is why crowns need to be taken care of and brushed in the same manner as a natural tooth. 

Myth: Implants don’t need regular care

The myth that implants are infallible and don’t need regular care is definitely one that needs to be dispelled. While implants are made of titanium and are at no risk of tooth decay, they are still just as susceptible to periodontal problems (gum and bone). Regular dental visits and good homecare will ensure that your implant can be a lifetime restoration!  As with natural teeth, smoking should be avoided as it inhibits blood flow to the area and is the primary reason for implant failure. 

Myth: “If I get a crown, I need a root canal too”

Patients tend to think that if they get a root canal that they need a crown as well.  That is not necessarily the case. When a root canal is done on one of the posterior (back) teeth, a significant amount of tooth structure has been removed and the tooth is greatly weakened. Without a crown to protect it, the tooth will break. Less trauma occurs to anterior (front) teeth, and a filling can often be done assuming there is not deep decay that would deem a crown necessary. This filling is used to close the hole made in the tooth when accessing the nerve. 

Myth: Root canals hurt

Root canals unfairly get a bad reputation. Patients hear the words “root canal” when they are already in pain and equate the fact that they need a root canal with the root canal itself being painful. This is exactly the opposite. The root canal procedure is what physically removes the nerve from the tooth, thus taking the patient out of pain and bringing him/her relief. The root canal is the “good guy”!

Myth: Electric toothbrushes are superior to manual ones

Some patients tend to think that because they are using an electric toothbrush that their homecare is inherently wonderful. This is simply not the case.  There are many factors that come into play in accomplishing good plaque removal, such as toothbrush adaptation, softness of bristles, and whether a manual vs. electric toothbrush is used. If the toothbrush is not being adapted to the teeth and gumline appropriately, it makes no difference what type of toothbrush is being used. Also, all electric toothbrushes are not equal in terms of how powerful they are.  Battery-powered toothbrushes tend to my much weaker than ones that charge on a base. In many cases, a manual (traditional) toothbrush is better than a battery-powered one. Certain patients brush as well if not better with a traditional toothbrush, so the issue of superiority is very subjective. In theory, a base-charged electric toothbrush “should” accomplish better plaque removal; however, many patients can brush more effectively with a traditional one because they feel they have more sense of control and direction with a regular toothbrush. With patients who experience dexterity issues, an electric toothbrush of any type is preferred over a manual one. 

Myth: Flossing is only necessary to help prevent cavities

How many times have you heard “make sure to floss or else you will get cavities!”  While it is true that flossing is necessary to remove the plaque from between the teeth that causes tooth decay, there is also plaque that sits along the gumline between the teeth that, if not removed, will cause gingivitis and periodontitis. So, flossing is two-fold!  It is important to understand that flossing removes two different types of bacteria, and in order to remove them both, proper flossing technique is critical. Holding the floss along the sides of the tooth while extending it to the gumline will remove BOTH types with the same movement.

Here at Dr. King’s Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, we find it extremely important to educate our patients on their oral health as well as the procedures that we recommended for them. Please contact us at (757) 464-6228 to experience dentistry in a whole new manner, a personalized one!