6 Common Misconceptions About Oral Hygiene

June 15, 2022

6 Common Misconceptions About Oral Hygiene

Did you know? June is National Oral Health Month! And in honor of National Oral Health Month, we spoke to Dr. Poonam Kalaria about some of the most common misconceptions behind better oral health.

Dr. Kalaria is a dental resident at the Ben Massell Dental Clinic, and recently spoke to us about her experience at the clinic. Dr. Kalaria will also lend her expertise to outline the best, scientifically backed ways to take care of your oral hygiene.

Here are six common myths about oral hygiene, and the truth behind them, brought to you by Dr. Kalaria!

Myth: Mechanical toothbrushes are better than regular toothbrushes.

Dr. Kalaria said that, according to some of her attending dentists, there is no real difference between a manual and mechanical toothbrush. In fact, many people are actually using their mechanical toothbrushes wrong.

“With a mechanical toothbrush, you don’t want to brush it up and down repeatedly like you do with a manual toothbrush,” Dr. Kalaria said. “Instead, place the mechanical toothbrush in one area of your mouth, hold it still, then let it do the work. Then, move on to the next area and repeat.”

Dr. Kalaria added that as long as you brush and floss your teeth regularly, you will have good oral hygiene. She also suggested a soft to medium bristle toothbrush, as harder bristles can damage the teeth’s soft tissue and cause receding gums.

Myth: Flossing isn’t even necessary like we originally thought.

Ever since 2010, due to literature put out by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other credible sources, some people decided that flossing is not as necessary as we once thought in order to maintain good oral health. Many newspapers latched onto these literatures and misconstrued them, blasting headlines like "Feeling Guilty About Not Flossing? Maybe There’s No Need.

But the headlines are misleading; while the evidence for flossing being beneficial is short-term and not well-studied, that doesn’t mean there are no benefits to flossing at all, or that you should be tossing out flossing any time soon.

“Flossing is absolutely beneficial for an overall healthy oral hygiene routine,” Dr. Kalaria said. “Many dentists I know would argue that it’s even more important than brushing. When you eat, food collects in hard-to-reach places, like between your teeth. Not removing the food can cause issues with your teeth and gums. Flossing at least once a day is crucial for a complete oral hygiene routine.”

Myth: Charcoal toothpaste is better than regular toothpaste.

Charcoal toothpaste has been all the rage in recent years. It promises to give you a glowing white smile, absorb bacteria that causes bad breath, and remove surface stains without damaging your teeth.

But is it a fad, or is there some genuine truth behind it?

According to Dr. Kalaria, charcoal toothpaste is no more magical than regular toothpaste, and she also sees problems with many brands of charcoal toothpaste.

“The issue I see with a lot of charcoal toothpastes is that they doesn’t have fluoride,” Dr. Kalaria said. “Your teeth need fluoride to stay strong and healthy. Despite some common beliefs, fluoride is actually not bad for your teeth.”

Dr. Kalaria said that if you are concerned about your teeth health and are prone to cavities, you can ask your dentist for a prescription toothpaste. It contains slightly more fluoride than regular toothpaste, and Dr. Kalaria said she uses it herself.

Myth: Oil pulling has amazing benefits for your teeth and gums.

Like charcoal toothpaste, oil pulling is another trend that has gained momentum in recent years for its proclaimed oral health benefits.

How do you oil pull, exactly? You measure one tablespoon of oil (usually olive oil or coconut oil), and gently swish it around in your mouth for 20-30 minutes a day (while being careful not to swallow any), and then spit the oil out when you are done.

The supposed benefits of oil pulling include whiter teeth, reduced plaque, cavity prevention and stronger gums. But is that all true?

Dr. Kalaria said that the benefits of oil pulling are drastically overrated: “There’s no harm in oil pulling. But the benefits it claims to have are not backed up by science. The best, proven ways of taking care of your oral hygiene is to brush and floss daily, and to see your dentist twice a year for a cleaning.”

Myth: Sugar should be avoided as much as possible and will always cause cavities.

Candy and other sources of refined sugar have long been demonized as detrimental to teeth. But is sugar really as dangerous as it’s made out to be? Dr. Kalaria says it’s less about the sugar itself, and more about not taking care of your teeth after eating the sugar.

“The worst thing to partner sugar with is time,” Dr. Kalaria explained. “The longer sugar sits on your teeth without being cleaned or rinsed out, the more time the acidity in sugar has to break down and cause cavities and other problems. Rinsing out your mouth with water after eating sugar can help, and the faster you clean out your mouth after eating sugar, the less prone to cavities you will be.”

She reminds her patients that they do not have to “give up sugar,” and that just like other indulgences in life, sugar is fine for your teeth, in moderation if you take care of your teeth afterwards.

Myth: Teeth whitening is harmful and increases tooth sensitivity.

Many people will go to extreme lengths to get those coveted pearly whites: whitening strips, charcoal toothpaste, oil pulling, LED treatments, and more. But in recent years, some advocates against whitening treatments have said that whitening is actually harmful, and can strip away the enamel that protects your teeth.

This sounds very alarming, but is it necessarily true? Dr. Kalaria says no.

“Whitening is purely elective and an aesthetic option,” she said. “And it isn’t necessarily harmful. But for some individuals, it can increase tooth sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity is individualistic and is determined by many factors, such as genetics, diet, and how much or how little you grind your teeth.”

If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, but still want whiter teeth, Dr. Kalaria said you can still safely whiten your teeth, albeit with a few adjustments.

“You can use toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth, for one,” she recommended. “If you find yourself experiencing sensitivity with whitening techniques, such as Crest white strips, try lowering the amount of time you use them, and try only using once or twice a week as opposed to every day. Also don’t forget that a lot of surface stains can be removed by attending your twice a year cleanings at the dentist.”

We hope you found these tips helpful! To learn more about the Ben Massell Dental Clinic and the community it serves, please visit www.benmasselldentalclinic.org.