Tooth Decay Myths: What's True And What's False

Posted on: 29 January 2015


Cavities and tooth decay or tooth loss are never something that a person wants to deal with. Thanks to scientific advancements, dentists now know that brushing, flossing and seeing your dentist regularly can go a long way to preventing these issues. But what about the rumors you hear on a daily basis? While some are true, others are very false. Check out the sites and get the inside scoop on three of the most commonly confused facts right here.

Fact: Chewing Gum Is an Effective Way to Combat Tooth Decay

Status: Partially True

It is true that chewing certain brands of gum can help to remove plaque and debris from your teeth. Because both of these create a perfect breeding ground for bacteria when left in the mouth, chewing gum can help to reduce the rate of tooth decay you experience. Doing so also creates a flood of saliva in the mouth over time, which can help to wash away debris or plaque on its own.

However, grabbing that giant green gumball isn't likely to do you any favors.

For this to work, it should be considered a minor addition to your daily oral health care plan--don't skip the brushing. Furthermore, you need to make sure that you're chewing sugar-free gum. Chewing gums that contain sugar are more likely to add to the levels of bacteria in the mouth, rather than reducing them.

Grabbing an aspartame-containing gum isn't necessarily the answer, either; the chemical has been associated with various health problems when ingested frequently.

The very best choice is an all-natural formula that doesn't contain either aspartame or sugar. Gums that contain xylitol can be a good substitute, but be wary--too much xylitol can cause diarrhea and stomach cramps in a small percentage of people. Thankfully, a few pieces of gum a day isn't likely to be enough to cause this issue.

If you're not sure, start with a half stick and move up from there.

Fact: Acidic Foods Break Down Tooth Enamel and Cause Cavities

Status: True

Acidic foods can indeed cause tooth damage, but in small amounts, they are just fine. Getting a proper intake of healthy fruits like oranges, lemons and grapefruits has many other health benefits, so you shouldn't just mark them out of your diet altogether. You simply need to learn how to care for your teeth after you eat them.

While your first instinct may be to brush your teeth directly afterward, this can actually be more damaging than just eating or drinking acidic foods alone. It's a little like the difference between scrubbing the kitchen counter with water alone or a solvent cleaner.

In this article, the fact that acidic foods may cause dental erosion is confirmed. Thankfully, it also highlights the best way to combat erosion from these foods--simply wait 60 minutes before brushing after ingestion. Once this amount of time has passed, brush and floss as you normally would.

Drinking a tall glass of water can also help to remove acids from the mouth, as can rinsing the mouth

So indulge in that tall glass of orange juice or beloved grapefruit--brushing 60 minutes later will ensure that any remaining acid is removed.

Fact: Children Are More Susceptible to Cavities

Status: False

This fact actually used to be somewhat true about 50 years ago, before the addition of fluoride to local water sources. During this time, it was also very common to put babies and toddlers to bed with a bottle, where they would drink the milk off and on all through the night. The combination of constant sugar invasion and soft, premature tooth enamel created the perfect breeding ground for cavities and decay.

Today, however, is much different. Parents and pediatric professionals now know that putting a little one to bed with a bottle of milk or juice is a bad practice. Instead, it's recommended to give a bottle that contains only water, if they are given a bottle at all. The addition of both fluoride treatments in early dental care and fluoridated water sources also helps by strengthening the teeth during infanthood. 

In fact, according to this article, adults between the ages of 20 and 44 now experience a higher rate of dental caries than their younger peers. Throughout the United States, nearly 25 percent of this age group were reported as having tooth decay, while the percentage ranged from 13 to 20 percent for people under the age of 20. Elderly patients are also at risk, as conditions like osteoporosis and type 2 diabetes can play a role in the development of caries.

What this means is that all people--regardless of age--should see the dentist regularly in addition to brushing and flossing. 

In the fight against decay and loss, your dentist is the most important tool at your disposal. With his or her help, you can formulate a plan that truly works for you. If you have questions about cavities, decay or oral hygiene, schedule an appointment. Getting the information you need to make good decisions is one of the best ways to ensure that you can enjoy your smile for years to come.