Wed. Oct 28th, 2020

Dentists debunk 14 teeth myths

9 min read
  • Two dentists debunk 14 of the most common myths about teeth.
  • They explain the science behind white teeth and what really causes cavities.
  • They also debunk the idea that electric toothbrushes are better than regular toothbrushes. In fact, it's more about how you brush your teeth.
  • And they mention how aligners, without X-rays and thorough analysis from an orthodontist, could be harmful to your teeth.
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Aaleeyah Pringle Alim: "You have to get your wisdom teeth removed."

Amin Elsaeed: OK, big myth here. Big, big, big myth. [Pringle Alim laughs]

"Charcoal toothpaste is better than regular toothpaste."

Pringle Alim: No. No, no, no. "There's no such thing as brushing too much."

Elsaeed: Try to brush for at least two minutes, right? Sing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."

Pringle Alim: What? I feel like that's so short.

Elsaeed: No, like, sing the whole verse.

Hey, everyone, my name is Dr. Amin Elsaeed. I'm a dentist working out of the Chicagoland area.

Pringle Alim: And my name is Dr. Aaleeyah Pringle Alim, also a dentist. And we are here to debunk some dental myths.

Elsaeed: Myth No. 1: "Sugar causes cavities."

Pringle Alim: Oh, my gosh. Sugar actually is not the cause of cavities. In your mouth, you have active normal bacteria, and when sugar is fed to that bacteria, the bacteria produces acid, and it creates cavities on teeth.

Elsaeed: So it's the fuel for the bacteria to cause the cavities.

Pringle Alim: Myth two: "Electric toothbrushes are better than regular toothbrushes."

Elsaeed: The most important thing is that you are actually brushing, right? So having that mechanical movement against your teeth, whether it be an electric toothbrush, a regular toothbrush, that's the most important thing to prevent plaque from sitting on the surfaces of our teeth. So if you have a regular toothbrush, you can still do a good job of brushing at home.

Myth No. 3: "White teeth are always healthy."

Pringle Alim: White teeth really just have to do with how your enamel appears on the surface. So, your tooth actually has three layers. It has the inside core, which is the pulp. It has that middle layer, which is yellow in color. And then it has enamel, which shows up whiter. It's like the armor of your tooth. So, genetically speaking, if you don't have the type of teeth that will appear whiter after whitening, you'll have to go maybe veneers or crowns to get a whiter, whiter, whiter smile.

Elsaeed: It's very possible to have, you know, cavities, bone loss, periodontal disease, even with pearly white teeth.

Pringle Alim: All right, myth No. 4: "There's no such thing as brushing too much."

Elsaeed: Anytime you want to take plaque off your teeth, we're all for it. But then it comes to how hard are you brushing, right? Some people go in there, and it's like a chain saw. They're just [makes chain-saw noise]. And what ends up happening is when you break down that enamel by so much, so much hard and vigorous brushing, you end up getting sensitivity. So people are like, "Oh, I drink something, and my teeth hurt."

Pringle Alim: Go and you look at your toothbrush, and if the bristles are flared out like this, you're doing it too hard.

Elsaeed: Myth No. 5: "Drinking with a straw is better for your teeth."

Pringle Alim: This is kind of true, but also kind of false. So, drinking through a straw is theoretically better for your teeth if done the right way. So, if you drink through the straw and the liquid literally just passes from the straw maybe to your tongue to your throat and you swallow, then that's OK. But the problem comes with when people drink through the straw and they still kind of swish it around in their mouths, that kind of defeats the purpose of drinking through the straw. It's damaging your teeth the longer that that liquid sits on your teeth. So, drink it fast if you can, drink it through a straw the right way if you can, and always, always, always follow it up with water. If you can follow up your acidic drinks with water, you can help your body get your pH back down to neutral or back up to neutral quicker.

Myth six: "Brushing harder makes your teeth cleaner."

Elsaeed: OK, brushing harder does not make your teeth cleaner. What makes your teeth cleaner is effective brushing. If you're brushing the right way, right? If I take my toothbrush and I'm jamming it in there with 600 pounds of force against my teeth, I'm causing a lot of damage. So it's not about the strength; it's more about the motion.

Pringle Alim: Angle your toothbrush a little bit so that the bristles are actually angled into the gums, and you move back and forth. Think about brushing two to three teeth at a time, instead of large, big strokes.

Elsaeed: Myth No. 7. This is a good one. "Charcoal toothpaste is better than regular toothpaste."

Pringle Alim: There is no research that suggests that charcoal toothpaste is better than your normal fluoride toothpaste. Zero. What people are kind of attracted to about charcoal toothpaste is that it promotes the idea that it will whiten your teeth. People went as far as to taking raw charcoal, like, just kind of charcoal powder, and brushing their teeth with that in hopes that they were going to, like, I don't know, unlock a secret whitened-tooth door. No. No, no, no. So, what can end up happening is, if you use charcoal too much, you can end up wearing away your enamel, which will then make your teeth appear more yellow, the opposite of what you want.

Myth 8: "You have to get your wisdom teeth removed."

Elsaeed: OK, big myth here. Big, big, big myth, I know. [Pringle Alim laughs] Listen, man, let me tell you, let me tell you, you do not have to get your wisdom teeth removed. If there is a specific reason, like it's causing you pain, the tooth now has a giant cavity, the tooth is impacted or now pushing up against the tooth in front of it and now it's just causing a whole drama inside your mouth, right? For a lot of people, that can be a very valid reason to have those teeth removed. And another reason that these teeth should be removed sometimes is getting to those third molars by ourselves at home and cleaning them, or these wisdom teeth, can be very, very difficult.

Pringle Alim: If they're in line with the others and if they're completely fine, yeah, you treat it like any other tooth.

Elsaeed: Myth No. 9: "You should brush right after every meal."

Pringle Alim: After you eat, your mouth becomes more acidic. So, it just naturally does. It doesn't matter what you eat. And if you take something mechanical, like bristles, and rub it up against your enamel in an acidic environment, you can more easily wear down your enamel, and you're doing more harm than good. So what you wanna do, you wanna wait a little bit. You wanna wait at least 30 minutes until your mouth gets more basic, more neutral, and then go in and brush.

Elsaeed: I always tell my patients, you know, if you eat and then you have food stuck in your teeth, you're literally throwing a free buffet to bacteria that didn't pay to get in there.

Pringle Alim: Myth 10: "Teeth grinding is not a serious problem."

Elsaeed: A lot of people don't know that they grind their teeth. A lot of it is you grind at night subconsciously when you're asleep. You don't even recognize that you're doing it. So, what teeth grinding does, No. 1, it can start wearing away at the surfaces of your teeth. So, if you wear away the protective layer, now you are at a much higher risk of having way more sensitive teeth. When you used to drink a cold glass of water before and didn't feel anything, now there's a chance, if you drink that cold glass of water without enamel, that you may have experiences with some sensitivity. Another reason that grinding is a serious problem is that it can have effects on our jaw.

Pringle Alim: If you're like me and you're a grinder, you definitely need to get a mouth guard. Teeth grinding is definitely on the rise.

Elsaeed: Myth No. 11: "Gum bleeding means you should stop flossing."

Pringle Alim: Do not stop flossing because your gums bleed. You gotta just push through it. Gum bleeding basically means that there has been so much inflammation around your tooth and so much potential foodstuff that's kind of stuck there, when you disturb it with the floss, your gums get angry, and then they start to bleed.

Elsaeed: Flossing is never going to have a negative effect on your oral cavity.

Pringle Alim: Coming in hot with myth No. 12: "Aligners will straighten your teeth."

Elsaeed: OK, this is a very loaded question. What is the stability of their teeth? How long are they going to keep these teeth? Are their gums healthy? Is the bone healthy? By jumping into aligners without having that very crucial knowledge, there's a chance that when you're trying to straighten these teeth, you could lose these teeth.

Pringle Alim: A good rule of thumb for me is, if they don't take X-rays and they wanna move your teeth, you probably should not let them do that.

Elsaeed: Myth lucky No. 13: "Toothaches always mean cavities."

Pringle Alim: When you think about a cavity, you think of a small hole in your tooth that's gonna get filled with something. You don't know what, the dentist does it, and then it's fixed. But a toothache can be kind of an indicator for something way more serious. So, it could possibly be an indication for bone loss. When you bite down and you're having a lot of pain, it could be because the bone around your tooth has started to resorb, started to disappear. It can be an indication of a fracture in your tooth.

Myth 14: "Chewing gum is just as good as brushing."

Elsaeed: Chewing gum is nowhere near as good as brushing, right? So, chewing gum definitely has some positive properties, OK? No. 1, if you're gonna chew gum, you wanna try to chew sugar-free gum. Or, if you wanna look for gum that has xylitol in it, which is a great sugar option in your gum, what that's gonna do is it's going to promote saliva production. But, for as great as chewing sugar-free gum is, it will never take away or be a substitute for brushing, right? You have to go in there with the mechanical work, toothbrush, whether electric, manual, and get those surfaces of those teeth clean and free of plaque.

Pringle Alim: Your oral health is a part of your overall health. So, it's not something separate. Like, you can't just take your mouth out and put it someplace. You have to treat it like it's a part of your body. And so daily maintenance is crucial.

Elsaeed: A lot of people have, you know, dental anxiety. Like, it's normal. It's a lot to think about. There are so many factors that people think about before deciding to go to a dentist. Sometimes going to the dentist to just talk can really make a difference.

Pringle Alim: If you want more information about oral health and just best practices, you can always check out Ada.org, and they have tons of resources. Just type it into the search bar, and something will pop up that can help you.

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