Longer morning and bedtime routines can take minutes away from scrolling through our Facebook or Instagram feeds or seem like a drag when you’re dead-tired or in a rush out the door. But if you assume a quick brush twice a day and flossing (when you remember…we’ve all been there) is all you need for a healthy smile, you might be surprised to know this is one of the many common myths about oral hygiene. Modern dentistry has come a long way from its roots—pun intended—of practices evolved from folklore and visits from the tooth fairy. Let’s take a look at four of the most common myths and debunk them once and for all.

Myth #1: Diet Soda Is Okay Because It Doesn’t Have Sugar in It

Let’s be real—soda, in general, is bad for your teeth. But while most people think that sugar is the main culprit—thus choosing diet soda over regular soda— you may be surprised to learn that the most harmful part of this sugar-free drink that leads to tooth decay is the acid content.

While diet soda is lacking sugar, it is highly acidic, which weakens your tooth enamel and makes them more susceptible to cavities. When it comes to the sugar in a regular soda, it isn’t the main culprit either. Rather, the sugar feeds decay-causing bacteria living in your mouth that stick to your teeth and gums. That’s why a normal soda packs a double punch of both sugar and acid that can wreak havoc on your oral health. And the longer you leave the sugar on your teeth to feed those bad bacteria, the worse it can be for your smile. The same damage can occur from drinking citrus juices, which although high in calcium and vitamin C, are loaded with acid.

Drinking beverages lower in acid, such as water, black tea, or coffee is a big step you can take to aid your oral health. So, if you plan to enjoy a soda, do so in one sitting rather than sipping throughout the day. The constant washing of sugar over your teeth and gums make it difficult for your saliva to effectively neutralize the pH level in your mouth. Drinking with a straw can help minimize the contact with your teeth, as well as drinking water afterwards. So, wouldn’t it seem like a good idea to immediately brush your teeth after drinking soda or another acidic beverage? This idea leads us to another myth…

Myth #2: There’s Never A Bad Time to Brush Your Teeth

Imagine you’ve just had dinner and washed it down with a soda. Your mouth has that sweet, sticky feel to it, and you’re worried about cavities. You immediately think to go brush your teeth thoroughly. Brushing is the best way to clean your teeth an maintain a healthy smile, so this sounds like a no-brainer, right? If this is something you routinely practice, you are surprisingly causing damage to your teeth without meaning to. Directly after consumption, your teeth are in a vulnerable state, where brushing may do more harm than good.  Acid in many foods and drinks can weaken your enamel and its under layer called dentin. Instead of protecting your teeth, you may actually be pushing the acid in deeper. Dentists recommend waiting at least 30 minutes to allow your saliva to naturally neutralize the acid in your mouth before safely brushing. If you’re worried about bad breath and crave that clean-mouth feeling, chewing sugar-free gum can help freshen your breath, as well as aid in saliva production. No gum? As we mentioned earlier, drinking a glass of water can also help neutralize the effects of acid.

Myth #3: Using A Harder-Bristled Toothbrush Cleans Teeth Better

It can be confusing picking out a new toothbrush. Among the different brands, you often see the labels for soft, medium, or hard bristles. If you’re like most people, you’d think the harder bristles would do a better job of cleaning your teeth. And while hard and medium bristles are marketed as being able to remove slightly more plaque than soft-bristled brushes, dentists still recommend choosing a brush with soft bristles for the best dental care. Harder bristles often cause more damage to your teeth and gums than good, especially in cases of aggressive brushing. People that brush less than they should tend to brush more aggressively when they do brush their teeth, which can cause tooth sensitivity and gum damage. If you feel that brushing manually with a soft-bristled toothbrush isn’t giving you the clean you’re looking for, talk to your dentist. Switching to an electric toothbrush may be a better option, without the damaging effect of harder bristles. And speaking of gum damage…

Myth #4: You Shouldn’t Brush or Floss Bleeding Gums

Bleeding gums after brushing or flossing can be alarming, but it’s more common than you may think. Most commonly associated with gingivitis, an oral disease-causing inflammation of the gums, bleeding gums can be a sign that your oral health is suffering. Plaque settles around your teeth and in the crevices between your tooth and gums, creating a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. This is often caused by not flossing or brushing enough, but if you ignore bleeding gums, and avoid brushing and flossing in hopes that they will heal, you’re inadvertently creating a harmful cycle for your mouth. If you fail to treat early stages of gingivitis, it could eventually turn into periodontitis, which requires more invasive treatment and can lead to tooth loss. You should continue to brush sensitive or bleeding gums gently, with a soft-bristled toothbrush in circular motions, to stimulate your gums and to strengthen the tissue. You can find toothpaste that is made specifically for gum health and gingivitis, as well as oral rinses. Flossing daily is also important. This is the best way to remove the plaque that is causing the bleeding and sensitivity in the first place. If bleeding and sensitivity continue, see your dentist. Bleeding gums can sometimes be an underlying symptom of a more serious health problem, such as bleeding disorders, vitamin K deficiency, leukemia, or hormonal changes.

University General Dentists — No Myth, Just the Real Deal

There is a good reason it’s recommended to visit your dentist at least once a year, and for some people, every six months. With so much information available at our fingertips, it’s easy to get off track and fall gullible to these and other dental myths. Preventative care is key to maintaining good oral health practices and noticing things before they become an issue. Here at University General Dentists, your comfort is important to us and we want to help alleviate and concerns or questions you may have about proper dental hygiene. Our staff is highly educated in a full range of services and treatments using the latest dental technology. University General Dentists are directly affiliated with the University of Tennessee Medical Center, and we are able to provide our clients with the best care in a state-of-the-art environment. With two locations convenient to the Knoxville area, we invite you to come experience the UGD difference by visiting us online and booking your next appointment with us!