Did you hear the one about the fossilized teeth that were found in Germany that
According to research and interviews from National Geographic, the teeth were likely from a pliopithecoid, a member of an extinct superfamily of primates that predated the evolutionary split between Old World monkeys and apes, the latter of which later split off into another two categories, one of which contains humans.
Basically, these teeth are about as related to humans as your third cousin twice-removed’s roommate is to you.
Trying to find the cold, hard tooth, er, truth about teeth is a difficult task. And through the years, you’ve likely heard a thing or two about teeth that has left you scratching your head, making you wonder if you need to clean your ears or if what you were told is actually correct.
Here, we chomp down on some of the most common dental myths around and find out whether or not they have any real bite to them.
Myth 1: Pregnant women don’t have to worry about bleeding gums; they’re just sensitive because of the pregnancy.
Did you just floss, or did you turn into a sloppy vampire? If you’re not sure, there’s a chance you could be pregnant.
“Oral health during pregnancy is especially important, because it affects both mom and baby,” says Lisa Simon, DMD, Fellow in Oral Health and Medicine Integration at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. “While it’s true that the hormones produced during pregnancy increase the likelihood that gums will bleed and be sensitive, this also increases the risk of gum disease.”
“Women who have gum disease (periodontitis) are more likely to give birth prematurely, or have a baby with a lower birth weight, so pregnant women should be sure to talk to their obstetrician and dentist if they note bleeding gums.”
Myth 2: Baby teeth cavities don’t need fillings because the teeth are just going to fall out anyway.
Baby teeth are like starter teeth, right? You just do what you can and hope for the best, because you’re going to get a new set anyways. Although this would be great news for kids, and even better for that greedy Tooth Fairy, it’s just not true.
Because of the high cost of dental care, along with the sheer stress of having their children undergo the work, some parents forgo fixing baby teeth issues simply because they think they don’t need to. However, this isn’t the truth.
“Baby teeth are just as important as the adult teeth that replace them, but they are formed differently, which puts them at an increased risk of cavities,” says Simon. “Baby teeth have thinner layers of enamel (the strongest layer of the tooth), and larger pulps (the hollow innermost part of the tooth where the nerve is), which means cavities grow faster and can cause toothaches more easily in children.”
Having cavities addressed as soon as they are detected can prevent children from experiencing unnecessary tooth pain and can stop infections from forming. Keeping baby teeth healthy also helps with speech and vocabulary.
“In addition, baby teeth serve as space-holders for adult teeth to grow in straight and healthy,” says Simon. “If children lose baby teeth because of cavities very early, they may even have trouble learning to speak and form sounds correctly.
Myth 3: Sugar by itself is bad for your teeth.
Just to be clear, this is not a free pass to indulge in all things sugar. The truth is, sugar is bad for your teeth. However, it only reaches its menacing state when it is combined with something that is found in literally every single person’s mouth: bacteria.
Without the bacteria, sugar couldn’t form cavities …
“All of us share our mouths with thousands of species of bacteria,” Simon says. “Most of them don’t cause any problems, but some bacteria eat the same things we eat—especially sugar and carbohydrates—that get digested to become sugar.”
“As they consume the sugar, they produce acid that can create holes in our teeth, and thus, cavities are formed. Without the bacteria, sugar couldn’t form cavities; however, science hasn’t figured out a way to eliminate the bacteria that lives in our mouths!”
Until that fateful day, make sure to get your brush and floss on daily.
Myth 4: The more often and harder you brush, the healthier your teeth will become.
You know that feeling when your teeth are so covered in sugar that they seem to be growing hair? And to get rid of it, you brush your teeth until they are within a few inches of their lives? While it makes sense that scrubbing your chompers with some serious power is the best way to remove that icky film, it can actually do more harm than good.
“While brushing and flossing frequently is an important health habit, brushing with too much force can damage the gums and teeth,” Simon says. Instead, “always use a soft toothbrush, and don’t push very hard while brushing in small circles, angling towards your gums.”
Myth 5: You should brush immediately after every meal.
If you’re tempted to reunite with your toothbrush as soon as you finish swallowing your last bite of food, hold off for just a bit. Even if you think your food is attempting to make a lasting impression on your breath, it’s a good idea to allow it to marinate for a bit.
“You should brush after every meal; however, waiting a while immediately afterwards allows your saliva to restore the pH balance of your mouth and makes it less likely that you will remove layers of tooth enamel along with the plaque and bacteria,” says Simon.
If you can’t wait or just aren’t able to tend to your pearly whites anytime soon, Simon suggests chewing some sugar-free gum. It can increase the flow of saliva and help protect your teeth.
Myth 6: Poor dental hygiene alone is the cause of bad breath.
Sure, everyone has less than fresh breath after certain foods, but brushing, flossing, and mouthwash usually get the job done. If you find that you have a foul mouth more often than not, however, it may not have anything to do with your oral cavity.
“Bad breath can be a sign that you need to brush and floss, but it can also indicate more serious conditions,” Simon says.
“Mouth infections like periodontitis can cause bad breath, and so can medical conditions like liver disease or complications of diabetes. If you notice bad breath along with other symptoms, this can be an important thing to talk about with your doctor or dentist.”
Myth 7: You’ll eventually lose all of your teeth.
Getting dentures seems to be a rite of passage for most, and many believe that they are destined to a life of false teeth. After all, how many grandparents do you know that still rock their entire OG adult tooth set? You probably don’t know many, but this doesn’t have to be the case for everyone, says Simon.
“With proper care and regular dental visits, anyone can expect to have their teeth for the rest of their lives,” she says. “Losing teeth isn’t a normal sign of aging, and even people who are at high risk of tooth decay can work with their dentist to protect and keep their teeth.”
Dental care is serious business and is something you shouldn’t neglect. Not only can being a little lazy cause gum disease and problems with your teeth, poor dental hygiene can also result in serious problems with your health. In fact, cardiovascular disease, endocarditis (an infection in the lining of your heart), and premature birth and low birth rate are all linked to inadequate dental care.
So the next time you feel like skipping a flossing session or don’t want to brush, remember that your mouth—and your body—want you to stop being a slacker, and just do it already.