Unknowingly holding a false belief about dentistry could be stopping you, or someone you love, from getting the essential dental care you need in order to achieve your best oral health. Here are eight of dentistry’s most common myths, as well as some important facts that will inspire you to partner with your dentist to elevate the health of your mouth and teeth!
Myth One: “Radiation from dental X-rays will harm my health.”
While dental X-rays do require radiation, the dose is very low. In fact, you may be surprised to know that the amount of radiation you’re exposed to during traditional dental X-rays is equivalent to taking a short flight of one-to-two hours! Also, your dentist will always take precautionary measures, such as that oh-so-stylish leaded apron, to further limit your chance of exposure.
Still unsure about radiation from dental X-rays? If so, there’s good news. Many dentists now offer digital X-rays, which require even less radiation than traditional ones. In addition to minimizing your exposure to radiation, digital X-rays are almost immediately available for your dentist to view. They not only show more detail, but also can be easily archived for future reference and comparison.
The takeaway: Dental X-rays are generally only taken once a year and are considered safe. You can also further minimize your exposure to radiation by choosing a dentist that offers digital X-rays.
Myth Two: “Professional fluoride treatments are unsafe.”
While concentrated doses of fluoride are unsafe when ingested (swallowed), a professional fluoride treatment is only applied to your teeth for a few minutes, after which it is spit out.
Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that helps to prevent cavities, while also remineralizing your teeth and even healing the early stages of tooth decay. Because a professional fluoride treatment is topically applied, your teeth are able to directly absorb and experience fluoride’s benefits.
The takeaway: Professional fluoride treatments are considered both beneficial and safe. If you or a family member is at medium-to-high risk of experiencing cavities, a professional fluoride treatment can help you reclaim the health and strength of your teeth.
Myth Three: “Professional whitening will harm my tooth enamel.”
Did you know that professional whitening typically targets the inside of your teeth? While coffee, tea, wine, and tobacco can stain your tooth enamel, most of these surface stains can be removed during your twice-annual dental cleaning and can even be prevented entirely through good oral hygiene. Professional whitening actually targets dentin—the layer of your teeth that is directly underneath your tooth enamel. Dentin often becomes darker as we age, shining through our translucent enamel and making our teeth look discolored or yellow.
The takeaway: Professional whitening is a safe and effective way to whiten and brighten your smile, from the inside out. Whitening is most effective when your mouth and teeth are at their optimal health. Ask your dentist about how you can maximize the effectiveness of teeth whitening.
Myth 4: “Going to the dentist is a literal pain.”
For some, the word “dentist” triggers images of harsh lights, buzzing drills, sharp metal instruments, and inevitable discomfort and pain. An estimated 9-15% of Americans avoid going to the dentist altogether due to dental anxiety or fear (known as dental phobia), increasing their risk for tooth decay; for gum disease; and, if left untreated, for more serious complications.
Thanks to more recent advances in dental technology and techniques, you can expect a more comfortable and positive experience each time you visit your dentist’s office. For example, many dentists now use essentially painless diode lasers to detect and treat cavities—instead of poking around your mouth with a sharp metal instrument (known as “the explorer”!) and then removing tooth decay with a high-pitched drill. Also, to further quell a patient’s dental anxiety, many dentists now routinely offer a range of sedation techniques, such as conscious sedation and laughing gas (nitrous oxide).
The takeaway: A positive and comfortable dental experience is possible! You can actually enjoy your dental experience by choosing a dentist who specializes in addressing your unique concerns and needs.
Myth Five: “Dental crowns are really just an optional treatment.”
If the word “crown” has you thinking “royal accessory,” keep reading! In actuality, dental crowns are an essential dental treatment used to restore the shape, function, and appearance of compromised teeth. Opting to postpone or to bypass your crown treatment can increase your risk for more serious complications, including infection, breakage, and even tooth loss!
The takeaway: Dental crowns are used to repair vulnerable teeth that are cracked, broken, weak, or decayed. You can save yourself from both unnecessary discomfort and from additional expenses when you make an appointment to get your crown ASAP.
Myth Six: “Implants aren’t worth it.”
Losing one or several teeth to either damage or decay can decrease your mouth’s overall health, comfort, aesthetics, and function, which can greater impact your quality of life, your self-esteem, and your sense of wellbeing. Dental implants restore the structure and actions of your natural teeth. Unlike any other prosthetic option, dental implants allow you to reclaim normal function, allowing you to smile again with confidence!
The takeaway: In addition to giving structure to your face, your teeth allow you to functionally chew your food, to enunciate your words, and to smile with confidence. Investing in dental implants can provide you will fully functional, natural-looking teeth that last for decades.
Myth Seven: “Veneers are only for the vain.”
Did you know that feeling unhappy with your smile can also hinder your social life, your work performance, and even your daily activities? How you feel about your smile can positively or negatively influence your self-esteem and your quality of living. Porcelain veneers are a long-lasting, versatile, and corrective solution to numerous cosmetic dental concerns, including misalignments, damage, gaps, and discoloration.
The takeaway: The effects of veneers are more than skin-deep. Veneers can be a life-changing dental treatment that can not only improve your relationships, but also make you more effective at work, allowing you to experience a greater sense of wellbeing!
Myth Eight: “Oral health doesn’t impact the rest of my body.”
The individual parts of your body work together to create the complete you–an integrated whole! When part of your body is experiencing decreased health or function, the effects are not localized. For instance, a cut on your finger activates immune cells from your spleen and bone marrow, while a sprain to your ankle impedes your ability to use the foot, knee, and hip on that same side.
Your mouth also plays a vital role in the functioning of your entire body. Your mouth is the start of your digestive system and is the secondary entrance to your respiratory system. Likewise, the partnership of your mouth and your vocal cords allows you to sing and to speak!
When your oral health is compromised, it can impact both your physical and mental wellbeing. The inflammation and infection caused by oral bacteria can contribute to cardiovascular disease and to infection, while gum disease (periodontitis) is strongly linked to stress, anxiety, depression, and loneliness. Your oral health can be equally impacted by conditions that affect other areas of the body. For example, osteoporosis can cause tooth loss, while diabetes can increase the risk of gum disease.
The takeaway: Your body works best when all parts and systems—including your mouth and your teeth—receive what they need to be healthy. Making oral health a daily priority will enhance your overall health and wellbeing.