Lifestyle

Exposing more dental myths | Dr. Stuart Rich

In my last article, we debunked several myths about baby teeth. This month we are going to tackle a few more misconceptions about your dental health.

1. “My poor dental health and diet won’t affect my unborn baby.” FALSE. Dentists have known for some time that periodontal disease is one factor in low birth weight babies. More recent research also has uncovered a connection between an expectant mother’s diet and the dental health of her child. Poor nutrition during pregnancy might even make the unborn child more likely to have decay later in life. Between the third and fourth months of pregnancy, research has shown a link between deficiencies in calcium, vitamins D, A and protein in the mother’s diet and oral defects in her child. Your oral health matters … to both of you.

2. “The more sugar I eat, the more cavities I will have.” FALSE. Your dentist will never recommend sugary foods as a major component of your diet. However, it’s not for the reason you think. Contact time is far more important than the quantity of sugar you consume. This means that the person who nurses a can of soda over a couple of hours, a sip at a time, is actually causing more potential tooth damage than someone who drinks three cans a day, but guzzles them down. The longer that the sugar and acids in the soda have to contact the enamel of your teeth, the more damage they can do.

Slow-dissolving candies, especially the now popular “sour” varieties, are especially damaging over the long term due to their extended contact with the teeth, as well as their acidic nature. Some studies have reported that the average American teen gets about 40 percent of their daily carbohydrate total from soft drinks. Even seemingly more healthy alternatives like diet soda, orange juice or lemonade can have similar effects if consumed regularly, due to their acid content. Here’s a novel idea … try drinking more water. Your teeth will thank you for it, and so will your waistline.

3. “Osteoporosis only affects my joints, not my mouth.” FALSE. Osteoporosis can affect any part of your skeleton, and your jaw bones are no exception. Since your teeth are anchored to the bone, anything that compromises your bones compromises your teeth. A related issue concerns those taking bone building drugs like Boniva, and others in the bisphosphinate class. Ironically, those taking this type of drug long term can experience serious complications with healing should they require oral surgery. Always give your dentist a complete list of the medications you are taking before treatment to minimize unexpected complications.

4. “Brushing is more important than flossing.” FALSE. Both techniques are essential to avoid periodontal disease. In fact, I think flossing is so critical, that if one of my patients feels they only have time to do one or the other, I recommend flossing alone at least 50 percent of the time if you can’t do both. Much of the damage to the jaw bone caused by periodontal disease is localized in between the back teeth. Brushing thoroughly by itself simply will not reach down in between the teeth and below the gum line adequately. There are many ways to achieve the results of flossing without cutting off the blood supply to your fingers with tightly wound floss. Most dental offices have a supply of various things you can try, including flosspiks, floss holders, water irrigation devices, proxy-brushes and other oral health aides to help clean this critical area.

As I have mentioned before, gum disease is now being implicated in a variety of other ailments, including heart disease, and diabetes. So use a piece of floss and tie a bow around your finger to remind you to floss tonight.

Dr. Stuart Rich, DDS., can be reached at 253-939-6900 or info@stuartrichdds.com.

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