Top 5 dental myths busted

A dentist busts the top five dental myths that are prevalent among people of all age groups

tooth with stethoscope around it, dental myths

When I was asked to write about dental myths, I thought one article won't be enough. There are so many misconceptions that I come across in my practice. But these are the top five most important ones that need to be busted.

Myth 1: Extraction of tooth causes eye sight problems

When I tell a patient that they may need a tooth extraction, the first question many of them ask me is, “But doctor, will it harm my eyesight?” This especially happens if the tooth has to be extracted from the upper jaw.

The nerves supplying your eyes and teeth are separate so there is no way that your eyesight will be affected by a tooth extraction. This fact is not known to most people and that’s where the myth stems from. In the olden times, when instruments were not sterilised properly before procedures, it would lead to fungal infections of the palate and sometimes the eyes too. However, with modern sterilisation protocols this no longer holds true.

One may sometimes experience referred pain on the temples due to lower molar infections, but again, your eyesight remains undisturbed. It’s worth mentioning here that there is a type of dental anaesthesia [infraorbital nerve block] which anaesthetises the upper front jaw. If this injection is not properly placed, it may cause swelling of the eyelids. The chances of that happening are very slim, but this could be another reason for the propagation of this myth.

Myth 2: Scaling will cause my teeth to loosen

Scaling and polishing of teeth means to get your teeth deep cleaned by a dentist. This procedure removes plaque and chunky deposits of tartar which are present in between the teeth as well as near the edges of the gums. Tartar and plaque can cause loosening of the teeth and this loose space is occupied with more tartar or calculus and the vicious cycle continues. When your dentist removes these nasty deposits from your teeth by scaling, the tooth may have some tiny gap around it, but this heals within a matter of days. If you had too much plaque that was removed, then heal might require more than a week, but this whole process protects your teeth and gums in the long run. It’s safe to get your teeth scaled at least once a year. The rest is taken care of by brushing twice a day, flossing regularly and oral rinsing.

Myth 3: Milk teeth are not important as they eventually fall out

This statement is half true: the only true part is that milk teeth fall out. Milk teeth are succeeded by permanent teeth and nature has devised it in such a way that each milk tooth is placed strategically in a certain location and falls out at a particular age when its successor has to erupt. They usually fall in the order that they appeared. Milk teeth are thinner and so are their roots, such that they are resorbed along with the erupting permanent teeth. If you do not care for milk teeth, they may decay and fall off before the permanent teeth appear. This causes the harmony to get disturbed and that’s when misalignment begins. So, if you want your child to be saved from orthodontic treatments [think braces and retainers], it’s wise to care for their milk teeth and teach your child good oral hygiene.

Myth 4: Sugar is the only culprit of cavities

It’s true that sweets and sugar cause cavities but cavity formation happens due to other reasons as well. All foods that are high in carbohydrates or sugar can cause cavities. This means that even when you eat rice or bread and then forget to gargle your mouth well or when remnants of food stay in the mouth, these can cause cavities. Moreover, you may be on the healthiest diet possible, but if you don’t maintain oral hygiene, dental caries are sure to happen. Finally, preventive treatment modalities [such as fluoride treatments, pit and fissure sealants, regular dental check ups] help prevent cavities, if done regularly.

You may also like: Dental hygiene basics

Myth 5: Dental check-ups aren’t necessary until any pain occurs

Coming from a dentist this may seem clichéd but I can’t stress enough on how important dental check-ups are. Undergoing check-ups at regular intervals not only prevents cavities that are in their nascent stage but also helps you understand what you need to do to maintain oral hygiene while also keeping you prepared for dental emergencies. It’s a common complaint that dental treatments are costly but in reality it’s dental neglect that is expensive. In developed countries, where dental check-up costs are covered by insurance, this is not such a big problem unlike in India where dental treatments are not covered by insurance.

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