For Dental Health Week 2022 the Australian Dental Association (ADA) is urging people to do a little bit every day to keep their mouth in great shape.
There’s a lot of misinformation and noise out there around the best ways to keep your mouth healthy. Here are some of the most common myths the ADA hears about through its members – and sets you straight on the right way to do things so your mouth will love you for it.
“If you look after your teeth by observing the ADA’s four key messages, you can have your teeth for life,” said the ADA’s Oral Health Promoter and dentist Dr Mikaela Chinotti.
“That means brushing morning and night with a soft bristle toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste, flossing once a day, eating a nutritious diet low in added sugar and visiting your dentist regularly.
“And none of these habits take long. These routines added together amount to around only five or six minutes a day– and they’ll benefit you for your entire life.”
Some commonly-held myths and the truths behind each.
1. Myth: It doesn’t matter what toothpaste you use so long as you brush.
Truth: There’s a whole industry of wellness products filling chemist and supermarket shelves, including a plethora of fluoride-free toothpastes. But without the essential ingredient of fluoride, the toothpaste may not protect your teeth as much as needed to prevent tooth decay developing.
Fluoride is in our water too. Studies have shown water fluoridation reduces tooth decay in children and adolescents by 26% to 44% and 27% in adults. Tooth decay is a largely preventable disease and the addition of fluoride to most Australian water is a substantial help in preventing decay. Despite the claims of minority groups, there’s extensive research that shows there are no adverse health effects from fluoride, a naturally occurring mineral, when used within recommended limits.
2. Myth: The longer you brush, the cleaner your teeth will be.
Truth: If you’ve done it correctly, two minutes will do the job. Brushing beyond that isn’t needed if you’ve done a thorough job during the recommended two-minute period. If you need to brush up on your brushing technique, head to the ADA’s consumer site to get the lowdown: www.teeth.org.au/pro-tips
3. Myth: Brushing once a day is enough.
Truth: This is not the case. One study showed that on average, less than half of dental plaque was removed when bushing with a manual toothbrush for two minutes. With so little plaque removed and it then building up again throughout the day, brushing teeth twice a day is recommended by the nation’s dentists to keep control of plaque levels.
4. Myth: Tooth whitening kits off the shelf are OK to use unsupervised.
Truth: If you haven’t had your mouth checked by a dentist recently, you won’t know if you have untreated cracks, tooth decay, exposed root surfaces or other problems you can’t feel. If the whitening gel escapes from the one-size-fits-all whitening tray that comes with store-bought whitening kits, and it gets into that untreated area, it could cause pain. It’s always advisable to get your teeth checked first and even better to get them whitened under the supervision of a dentist, either in a clinic or at home with a dentist-supplied kit, so your dentist can monitor your progress.
5. Myth: Charcoal toothpaste is healthy for teeth.
Truth: This is not the case for all toothpastes containing charcoal. A 2019 report in the British Dental Journal showed that for people with periodontal disease (gum disease affecting the gums, bone and ligaments that hold the teeth in place), there was the potential for charcoal particles to collect under the gums and cause the gum tissue to appear grey or black, or for it to build up in the grooves of the teeth or surface defects on white fillings. Needless to say if this happens at the front of your mouth it will show!
The report also found that 92% of charcoal toothpastes or powders included in the study didn’t contain fluoride and that the charcoal could be abrasive and may cause wear of the tooth surface.
6. Myth: Brushing alone will keep teeth and gums healthy.
Truth: To keep good oral health, not only do you need to brush twice a day, it’s important to also clean between your teeth every day. Toothbrushing can’t reach the spaces between the teeth, no matter how well you do it. Cleaning between the teeth with interdental brushes or floss helps to keep gums healthy. Gums are very important as they’re a part of the foundation that holds the teeth in place.
7. Myth: I can eat something sweet so long as I brush straight after.
Truth: We all like a sugary treat but keep your daily consumption to within World Health Organization guidelines of six teaspoons a day maximum. After eating or drinking something containing sugar, rinse your mouth with water. But it can take at least an hour for your teeth to recover from acid attacks caused by sugar, so wait those 60 minutes before brushing. Cleaning too soon may damage the tooth enamel.
8. Myth: what goes on in my mouth won’t affect the rest of my body.
Truth: Dental researchers working in this area have found plenty of evidence to show how oral health affects the rest of your body, particularly in relation to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and poor pregnancy outcomes such as low birthweight babies. Gum disease is a risk factor for these conditions and others.
Research has shown that people with gum disease have a 2.5 times increased risk of having a heart attack compared to the same group of people without gum disease. What they have yet to determine is if the prevention or treatment of gum disease reduces the number of heart attacks.
Don’t have a regular dentist or one who’s nearby? No problem - the ADA’s Find-a-Dentist search engine at www.teeth.org.au makes it easier.
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