Thousands of years ago, many cultures believed in the “tooth worm.” This was a tiny worm which burrowed into the teeth and caused everything from cavities to tooth loss. While the idea sounds ridiculous (and gross) today, tooth worms were considered established science for hundreds of years.
Today, if a dentist suggests your dental pain is caused by tooth worms, you should run out of their office and don’t look back.
Thankfully, nobody believes in tooth worms anymore. But many dental myths still persist. Let’s take a look at the most common dental myths and how they can impact your dental health.
Myth #1: White Teeth Are Always Healthy
Teeth can be white, straight, beautiful… and still have problems. Cavities, infections and other dental problems can grow inside a tooth without displaying any visible symptoms. For instance, white spots on teeth are often an early warning sign of excessive plaque build-up or calcium loss. But those spots can be hard to see if your teeth are already white.
At the same time, teeth which aren’t particularly white can still be perfectly healthy. Natural tooth color varies from person to person. Healthy teeth can be somewhat discolored or yellowed. This is especially true for seniors because teeth often lose their white color with age.
Myth #2: Tooth Whitening is Dangerous
Discolored teeth can be healthy but many people still prefer a bright, white smile. One common myth about tooth whitening is that the bleaching materials used will damage your teeth. Truthfully, while whitening methods vary in their degree of effectiveness, they’re all safe for the health of your smile.
However, this myth does have some roots in reality. Before 1990, tooth whitening processes were very different than they are today. Early whitening methods used acidic materials which often broke down tooth enamel. Today’s whitening products are usually powered by carbamide peroxide, which is a form of hydrogen peroxide. While temporary tooth sensitivity might occur during whitening, there’s no risk of permanent damage.
Myth #3: Brushing Your Gums Makes Them Bleed
Your gums are likely tougher than you think. If you see blood in the sink after brushing, it’s almost certainly not caused by brushing too hard. Instead, you likely have gum disease, which is caused by a build-up of plaque and tartar.
The beginning stage of gum disease is called gingivitis, which is when the build-up is limited to just the gums. Periodontitis is when the build-up spreads underneath the gums to infect the tissues and bone underneath.
If you see blood in the sink for a few days in a row, you likely have gingivitis. You’ll want to schedule a dental appointment so you can prevent more severe gum problems from developing. But the blood isn’t caused by brushing too hard.
Of course, just because your gums are tough doesn’t mean you need to brush as vigorously as possible. More pressure doesn’t equal more thorough brushing. Instead, the amount of time you brush is what’s important. Brush for three minutes at least twice a day. Set the bristles at a forty-five degree angle against your teeth. Light pressure is perfectly fine.
Myth #4: More Sugar Equals More Cavities
You probably heard this myth as a child, especially around Halloween. If you eat a lot of candy, all of your teeth are going to rot and fall out. The truth is actually a bit more complicated.
Sugar leads to tooth decay. But sugar doesn’t cause tooth decay directly. Instead, sugar causes certain bacteria in your mouth to produce acid. This acid wears away at the enamel on your teeth, eventually creating cavities.
But the quantity of sugar isn’t nearly as important as the length of time it’s allowed to stay on your teeth. Eating 100 pieces of candy then brushing 20 minutes later is far better for your teeth than eating 10 pieces of candy and brushing hours later. (Of course, eating 100 pieces of candy in one sitting is pretty terrible for your overall health, but we’re talking strictly dental decay here.)
So when you eat or drink something sugary, brush your teeth about 30 minutes later. Any sooner can dissolve tooth enamel. Any later allows harmful acids to thrive and attack. Also, avoid slow-dissolving sugary substances like hard candies and suckers.
Myth #5: Aspirin Should Be Placed Directly on a Toothache
While nobody believes in dental worms anymore, some pretty unusual dental myths still remain popular. Have you ever heard about placing an aspirin in-between your cheek and gum in order to cure an aching tooth? Supposedly allowing the aspirin to dissolve near the aching tooth provides faster and long-lasting relief.
Except it’s about as effective as placing an aspirin on your head to treat a headache. Aspirin only works when it’s been absorbed into your bloodstream via your digestive track. Even then, an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen will be far more effective than acetaminophen.
If you have a toothache severe enough to warrant over-the-counter drugs, you want to schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. Don’t let the cost keep you from getting the treatment you need. Aetna dental plans offer instant savings of 15% to 50% on a variety of procedures including many emergency procedures.
Don’t let urban legends and half-truths dictate your dental care. Aetna dental discounts cards help make effective, modern dental solutions available for everyone… and that’s no myth!