5 Dentistry Myths- Busted!
I am astounded at how little my clients know about oral health. Most of my clients are educated 25-45 year olds, employed in some of our top companies and doing pretty well in life. They have visited most of the world’s countries, often tracking through some less travelled terrains, explored all the wonders of the world, yet, it seems the world’s only remaining mysteries are all in one place: their own mouths!
Here are only five of these mysteries revealed. I hope this busts some more popular myths and simplifies dentistry! Of course, there are many more myths to bust, so I promise to do this soon in another edition of the blog!
MYTH 1: “I must have been born with weak teeth”
Well, most people I see were lucky enough not to have this problem. “Weak teeth” is a term most patients use when they believe their teeth seem to be more susceptible to tooth decay or gum disease. But “weak teeth” for dentists, usually means developmental defects, such as enamel or dentine hypoplasia or dysplasia, invaginations (teeth within teeth), microdontia (small teeth), etc. These can be genetic or caused by systemic illness during the development of teeth (usually very early in life- sometimes even in utero).
TAKE HOME MESSAGE 1: These conditions on their own do not make you more susceptible to tooth decay!
MYTH 2: “My tooth decay must be genetic”
Tooth decay is not genetic. It is “inherited” in a way, as it is a bacterial disease. As such, it is transmissible (i.e. contagious), not through the genes, but via close contact and sharing of saliva (like sharing a cup or a spoon with a small child). The more tooth-decay causing bacteria your carers and parents harboured while your teeth were erupting, the more likely you are to harbour them later in life.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE 2: Tooth decay is not genetic, but be careful who you let near the kids!
MYTH 3: “My teeth are not bothering me, so I probably don’t need to go to the dentist”
- Do you suffer from sensitivity when eating or drinking hot or cold food or drinks?
- Do your gums ever bleed when you brush or floss?
- Do you grind your teeth in your sleep or have interrupted sleep or insomnia?
- Do your teeth look flat at edges with sharp corners and they all look the same length?
- Are your teeth getting darker?
If you have answered yes to any of these questions, you may be suffering from “silent killers” in dental terms. These are erosion wear, attrition wear, periodontal disease, just to name a few. Otherwise healthy people with low risk of tooth decay, often suffer from these diseases and do not know that their complaints are not “normal”.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE 3: Just because you can’t see it or feel it, doesn’t mean it’s not there! Get a professional assessment!
MYTH 4: “My wisdom teeth must be pushing my other teeth and making them crowded”
Luckily, one of the biggest myths in dentistry is not true! Your wisdom teeth have no effect on the arrangement of your other teeth (provided all your other teeth are present). Your teeth may be getting more crowded as a consequence of ageing or a grinding habit. As they get more crowded, teeth can become more difficult to clean and can wear down into unsightly patterns. Orthodontic treatment (braces or aligners) is the only way to correct this. As for your wisdom teeth, if they are causing painful episodes, are difficult to clean or are putting your other teeth in danger by attracting plaque, have them removed, there will be no consequence to your smile or face structure, but your mouth will generally be cleaner!
TAKE HOME MESSAGE 4: Wisdom teeth are not the keepers of your wisdom. Make an informed decision about whether to keep or remove them, based on their effect on your health, not the arrangement of your smile!
MYTH 5: “Laser or light “one hour” teeth whitening will work better than other whitening treatments”
My favourite! Science has shown, time and time again, without any doubt and for everyone who cares to read it: lasers or lights have no effect on the whitening result. It is the whitening gel: usually a hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide in different formulations, concentrations and consistencies, which causes the whitening effect. The lasers and the lights are marketing gimmicks. For bonus points, here’s a bonus secret: when you are lying in the dental chair with your mouth open, waiting for your “one hour whitening” to do its magic, your teeth will dehydrate (lose water). This makes them appear brighter as they look more opaque. Wait 48hours and you will get a significant change in appearance as they regain water and appear “darker”.
There, I said it. It is important, however, to make sure that your whitening treatment is prescribed and supervised by a dental professional. Whitening gels can cause chemical burns on your gums and soft tissues and if not used properly and ingested in large amounts, may even cause some harm to your gastro-intestinal tract.
We usually recommend:
- using a viscous gel in a well formed, custom made silicone tray,
- using the highest concentration of the gel (so whitening process is quicker)
- whitening in brief intervals (1-2 hours per day),
- whitening for a short period of time (usually a couple of weeks at the most)
- reviewing your results regularly with your dental professional.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE 5: Teeth whitening is safe, but beware marketing gimmicks and treatment by untrained, unqualified people!