Oral Hygiene Myths

By Terri Yablonsky Stat

Ever since Jessica Simpson admitted she cleaned her teeth by rubbing them on her shirt, myths about dental hygiene have sprung up. Despite what you may hear, there’s nothing better than old-fashioned brushing and flossing. Here are some of the best one-liners ever uttered from the dental chairs of doctors Samuel Weisz and Margaret Mitchell.

1. “You can’t tell if I don’t floss regularly.”
Think again. Breakdown of the gums, ligaments, and bone surrounding the teeth as well as gum inflammation and visible plaque buildup are hard to hide, says Weisz.

2. “I don’t want to floss because it will push my teeth apart.”
Not true. “If you’re in the shower, would you not clean between your toes because they might spread apart?” asks Mitchell.

3. “When I get my teeth cleaned, it hurts.”
If you’re going in for healthy maintenance, it feels great, says Mitchell. “Healthy tissue doesn’t bleed, and it doesn’t hurt to [get a cleaning].”

4. “I don’t brush my teeth before bed. I do it in the morning.”
Mitchell says, “Believe it or not, there [is] a large percentage of people—I’m talking adults—who don’t brush before bed. Ick.” As we sleep, our salivary flow diminishes. Saliva helps wash food debris and bacteria out of our mouths. Without adequate saliva, plaque bacteria reproduce. Hence, morning breath. And, as debris and bacteria accumulate between the teeth and around the gum line, there is an increased risk for tooth decay and gum disease.

5. “Bad breath is coming from my stomach.”
There’s a reason that breath isn’t fresh, and it [not always] has to do with [a] sour stomach. Bad breath can [also] be caused by a cold, sinus infection, tooth decay, gum disease, the need for new dentures or simply poor oral hygiene.

6. “Mouthwash is a substitute for brushing or flossing.”
You need the scrubbing action of a toothbrush—for two full minutes—to adequately clean your teeth, says Mitchell. You cannot treat gum disease with mouthwash.

7. “I need to spend more money for good toothpaste.”
It’s all the same, says Mitchell. Whether it’s Tom’s of Maine or old-fashioned Pepsodent, the only difference is how it’s marketed. Some toothpaste does include ingredients for whitening or sensitivity. Spend as much or as little as you like.

8. “Nothing gets your teeth as white as baking soda.”
Actually, baking soda is very abrasive, so it’s not a good idea for brushing, says Mitchell. Look for a low-abrasive paste.

9. “The harder you scrub your teeth, the cleaner they’ll be.”
Not true, says Mitchell. Scrubbing too hard causes recession and erosion of the tooth surface and gum tissue. Brush gently and often. [Vary the area] where you start brushing since that’s where the most toothpaste will be deposited. Brush gently with a pea-sized amount of toothpaste for a full two minutes. [email_link]