Brushing your teeth doesn’t take much time or effort, but it sometimes feels like a chore. There are several brushing myths that might make you think you can skip this important part of your daily routine. It is important to know the facts – not only for your dental health, but for your physical health as well.
How many of these tooth brushing myths have you heard?
Myth #1: Brushing once a day is enough.
Good dental hygiene is about more than just fresh breath. Consistent, thorough brushing scrapes plaque and harmful bacteria from the surface of the teeth. Failing to remove that bacteria can result in cavities and gum disease. And did you know that problems with your teeth and gums can contribute to other serious health problems like strokes, diabetes, and heart disease?
The average person brushes for 48 seconds. Doing that only once a day is not enough to protect you. Instead, dentists suggest brushing for two minutes at least twice a day.
Myth #2: The harder the bristles, the better the toothbrush will clean.
This might seem logical, since part of what you are doing is scraping plaque off your teeth. But it is a brushing myth. A hard-bristled toothbrush can actually be bad for your teeth and gums.
The same goes for brushing too hard with a softer toothbrush. Teeth might seem as hard as rocks, but they’re covered in enamel, which can be worn down. Once the enamel is scraped away it can’t grow back, leading to a higher risk for cavities.
A hard brush can also damage tender gum tissue. This can be painful and cause receding gums, which could leave you vulnerable to gum disease. A soft-bristled toothbrush is better. The key is to use it consistently and thoroughly.
Myth #3: Bleeding gums are a just a sign of brushing too hard.
It is true that vigorous brushing can make gums bleed. But it is a brushing myth that it’s the only cause. There could be something more serious going on. Bleeding gums can be a sign of untreated gingivitis, which is the first stage of gum disease. Plaque on the teeth contains germs, and when it’s not removed through regular brushing, it can attack the gums. The bacteria irritate the surrounding tissue, making it inflamed and tender.
So, while you may be tempted to stop brushing if you see blood, you actually need to step up your dental game with better brushing and flossing. If it still doesn’t stop, a dentist can help.
Myth #4: You should brush your teeth immediately after eating.
After eating, especially something sugary, you might think it’s best to hurry to brush your teeth. This is a brushing myth. You should actually wait awhile. It is true that the acids in our food and drink can soften the enamel on our teeth, but your saliva helps reduce that acid. It acts as a natural defense against the bacteria that grows in your mouth.
Which means that brushing right away can actually do more harm than good. It is suggested that you wait at least 30 minutes after eating before brushing so you can give your saliva a chance to do its job.
Myth #5: I only need a new toothbrush every few years.
Dentists recommend replacing your toothbrush every three to four months, or when the bristles begin to fray – whichever comes first. As it starts to wear out, it may not be as good at cleaning the plaque off your teeth. Also, because it’s exposed to all the bacteria in your mouth, over time it can become a haven for germs that could make you sick.
And speaking of getting sick, you should replace your brush after you have a cold or the flu. You don’t want to be exposed to those germs again once you’re feeling better.
Myth #6: You can use mouthwash instead of brushing.
Rinsing with mouthwash will definitely freshen your breath. If you use one of the products on the market that contain fluoride, you might also help protect yourself from tooth decay. But brushing is the only thing that can get rid of food buildup and plaque, the main causes of dental problems. It might be better than nothing when brushing isn’t an option, but mouthwash should not replace your toothbrush.
Myth #7: Certain foods and gum are as good as brushing.
You may have heard that apples and raw carrots are an effective, natural way to scrape your teeth clean. Because they’re hard, biting into them can do a bit of the toothbrush’s job, but they should never be a substitute. They can’t get around your entire mouth and between teeth the way that brushing and flossing can. Not only that, fruits and vegetables can leave behind sugars and acids that need to be cleaned away too.
The same goes for chewing gum. It is true that it will help produce saliva that will neutralize acids, and if it’s sugar-free, it’s not doing any harm. Some gum even contains Xylitol which fights the bacteria that cause cavities. But just like with apples and carrots, it is a myth that gum-chewing can take the place of brushing.
Tooth Brushing Myths, Debunked
In may cases, these tooth-brushing myths start out as guesses or assumptions. We can’t know which guesses are right or wrong without the science behind them. Fortunately, for these myths, we know enough of the science of dental health to know what to do.
So, when it comes to your dental health, don’t fall for these brushing myths. Your teeth and gums will thank you.