Millions of Americans have fear, stress, or anxiety associated with going to the dentist. In extreme cases, the fear is so profound that it's classified as dental phobia. Often, this fear is intensified by a belief in several common dental myths. Let's examine some of the most prevalent myths concerning dental care and the truth behind the misconceptions:
If I don't eat sugar, I won't get cavities. Cutting sugar from your diet isn't necessarily a bad idea, but it's also not a surefire guarantee that you'll live a cavity-free life. That's because cavities are caused by acid that's produced by harmful bacteria in the mouth. Any type of carb you eat provides fuel for the acid-producing bacteria. This doesn't mean that you have to live a carb-free life, either; it simply means that you should attempt to eat a balanced diet and make an effort to brush your teeth after a carb-filled meal.
If I brush my teeth, I don't need to floss. Many people believe that, as long as they're brushing their teeth twice a day, they're in the clear. That is simply not the case. Flossing is not an optional part of your oral hygiene routine; it's an essential part. Floss can reach between the teeth where the toothbrush misses, releasing food particles and bacterial plaque that could lead to decay.
I'll know if I have a cavity because it will hurt. Sometimes, people avoid the dentist for years, reasoning that they can't possibly have a cavity because their teeth don't hurt. While cavities can be painful, pain typically occurs after the cavity has grown and progressed. Thus, you can have a small cavity with no pain at all. That's why it's essential to visit the dentist every 6 months; small cavities can be caught and treated with conservative bonding before they become bigger concerns.
Peter J. Samuels DDS is a local Gettysburg dentist and a clinical instructor at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry.