Breaking Through Six Common Myths About Healthy Teeth and Gums

Dr. Susan MaplesBy Dr. Susan Maples DDS

With hundreds of products on the market to help you achieve healthy teeth and gums, it can be confusing as a consumer to know what advice to follow, what products are best, and what’s a gimmick and what you can’t be without. Now more than ever, good oral health is not only important to achieving a healthy mouth, but there’s medical proof that your oral health is a good indicator of your overall health.  If you want to be proactive in preventing conditions like heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, respiratory issues and more, achieving good oral health is a good place to start.

Let’s break six of the most common myths about your mouth.

Swish off the claims about mouth rinses

Not all mouthwash is created equal. Mouthwash is never a replacement, but a supplement to regular brushing and flossing. Rule number-one: If your mouthwash has alcohol in it, it could be doing more harm than good. Alcohol is a preserving agent that can actually lead to oral cancer. Also, stay away from mouthwashes that claim to make your teeth feel smooth as they contain a detergent that coats the plaque and debris trapping it underneath the slick. Finally, save your money on rinses that claim to “whiten” teeth. In the typical 30 second rinse, there just isn’t enough time or enough active ingredients to lighten your teeth.

How hard should it be?

If you have ever gone to the store to buy a toothbrush, you know how confusing it can be. There are so many colors, lengths and bristle types to choose from. The only choice for hardness in a toothbrush is not hard at all. Make sure you always choose soft bristles to avoid traumatizing your gums. Scrubbing with a medium or hard bristle brush can make the gums recede from the teeth and it’s irreversible except through surgery. 

Let ‘em bleed

If your gums bleed when you brush or floss, don’t stop your routine. Bleeding is a natural response when you clean inflamed gums and isn’t from brushing or flossing too hard. Keep at it to reduce the bacteria and avoid periodontal disease.  The bleeding will subside as the bacteria load is cleaned up.  Of course, if bleeding remains a problem or large amounts of blood pour from your mouth while you are brushing or flossing, check with your dentist as this could be a sign of something more serious.

Tooth lightening: The secret to pearly whites or is it?

Just about everyone wants whiter teeth, and it’s true: Tooth lightening can brighten your teeth. But be careful: chasing an unceasing glow-in-the-dark smile can damage pulp and cause teeth to die. Over-the-counter products will only lighten your teeth by one or two shades. And those one-hour laser or light therapy booths you see in the mall and other places?  Avoid them.  It’s temporary and the powerful light actually dehydrates the teeth. The best results come through bleaching with custom trays only available through your dentist.

Tooth Probing is For Everyone

You may or may not have heard of dental probing, but if you aren’t familiar with it you should be. This very important periodontal exam should be done at least once each year. It’s a test that takes “pocket” measurements using a probe around the cuff of each tooth. Good numbers are 3 mm or less.  Bad are 4mm or worse. Periodontal disease is the #1 reason adults lose teeth, and unlike other bones in your body which can heal when broken, the bone you lose around your teeth doesn’t grow back.

The Truth About tooth sensitivity

A lot of people start to worry when they experience tooth sensitivity.  Here’s what you need to know: A cold-sensitive tooth does not signify a dying tooth like a heat-sensitive tooth does. Cold sensitivity can heal and reverse itself. Toothaches stimulated by heat or biting pressure toothaches that appear without any stimulus are signs that you pulp is dying and you need a root canal. 

The takeaway

Anything worth doing is worth doing right, and that’s especially true when it comes to taking care of your teeth and gums. If you truly want to have a healthier mouth, and ultimately better overall health, make sure you learn what’s really important and what’s not. When in doubt, always consult your dentist.

Dr. Susan Maples is author of Blabber Mouth! 77 Secrets Only Your Mouth Can Tell You To Live a Healthier, Happier, Sexier Life. She has been named one of the top eight innovators in U.S. dentistry. and

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