Oral health is a critical aspect of our overall well-being, and it is often underestimated in its significance. Beyond the pearly whites and fresh breath, maintaining good oral hygiene has profound implications for our systemic health. Yet, misconceptions about oral health may lead many to make choices that may not be in their best interest, and could impact their health in the future. In this blog post, we will dispel five prevalent misconceptions that could be compromising your oral health. Understanding these misconceptions and their impact on oral health can empower you to make informed choices for a healthier smile and body.
Sparkling water is fine for your teeth.
You may know that soft drinks/pop and other drinks are bad for your teeth because they contain high amounts of sugar. Sugar is a source of nutrition for the bacteria in your mouth and on your teeth, and through their metabolism, they produce lactic acid1.
The outermost layer on your tooth, enamel, begins to break down in the presence of acid. This process, known as demineralization, occurs as hydroxyapatite (the main component of enamel) dissolves when at a low pH (high acidity). The pH of solution upon which demineralization is shown to occur is around 5.52. This is called the critical pH of enamel. A state of acidity in your mouth breaks down the outer surface of enamel, leading to dental caries, which is essentially the dental term for tooth decay or “cavities”.
So you may be thinking, “I am in the clear!” if you have minimal soft drinks, although you do often have sparkling water beverages. Unfortunately, carbonated beverages, including many popular sparkling water brands, have a low pH. You are in the clear for consuming less sugar, but unfortunately your teeth can still break down due to acid. Sparkling water is made by adding carbon dioxide, which reacts to produce carbonic acid3. These beverages, along with soft drinks and many fruit juices have been shown to have a pH lower than the critical pH of enamel3. If you are curious about the pH level of your favorite beverages, you could pick up a pH indicator strip to put them to the test.
No need to completely abstain from having the occasional fruit juice, soft drink or sparkling water, however. Your enamel will remineralize once your saliva returns to a higher pH (more basic), assuming the enamel structure has not been broken down2. Although, it is recommended to make water your beverage of choice4.
You should brush your teeth right after eating.
As discussed above, many foods and beverages have a low pH and can lead to breakdown of the outer surface of your tooth. You might believe that brushing your teeth after consuming sugary foods is a good idea to minimize the risk of developing cavities (tooth decay or “cavities). However, if you consume something acidic, your enamel will demineralize, and brushing your teeth will remove the enamel structure. Once the structure has been removed, your enamel will not remineralize, and you will be more prone to further decay3. It is recommended to wait at least 30 minutes to brush your teeth after eating5.
You should rinse your mouth or use mouthwash after brushing your teeth.
The appropriate use of fluoride in toothpaste is regarded as a highly successful method of prevention of caries (tooth decay or “cavities") in dentistry6. Fluoride helps reduce the actions of acid on tooth enamel, reducing its demineralization7. If water or mouthwash with a lower amount of fluoride is used to rinse the mouth post-brushing, this can negate the beneficial aspects of fluoride from your toothpaste6.
Chewing gum has no impact on your oral health
In combination with a good and regular oral hygiene routine, chewing sugar free gum is thought to actually help reduce your risk of caries (tooth decay)8. The rationale behind this lies in the fact that chewing sugar-free gum encourages the production of saliva through both the taste buds and the mechanical act of chewing.8. Increased saliva production serves to reduce oral acidity by acting as a buffer and diluting the acid. Additionally, it aids in the remineralization of your enamel8. Sugar-free gum contains sweeteners that aren't metabolized in substantial quantities by the oral bacteria, resulting in a reduced production of acidic byproducts compared to sugar8. This leads to a lower risk of cavities.
DIY (do it yourself) whitening is as effective as dentist whitening treatment
In-office, dentist supplied, or over the counter whitening products utilize the actions of carbamide peroxide, or hydrogen peroxide to penetrate the layers of the teeth to whiten them9. Other natural or DIY methods have questionable efficacy to support them, and could be overly abrasive to the structure of your teeth9.
How We Can Help
If you have found this information interesting and you wish to learn more, consider joining the FutureDMD community. We offer aspiring students mentorship programs, challenging them to “Think Like a Dentist” while avoiding the typical and uninspiring dentist shadowing experience. Our Dental Externship series will widen your perspective, encourage discussion and facilitate critical thinking while giving a true understanding of what it is like being and working as a dentist. We also help with dental school applications and offer dental school admissions consulting. Experience dental monitoring as it should be by contacting FutureDMD today.
Carlsson J. Microbial aspects of frequent intake of products with high sugar concentrations. European Journal of Oral Sciences. 1989;97(2):110-114. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0722.1989.tb01438.x
What is the critical ph and why does a tooth dissolve in acid? - cda-adc.ca. Accessed September 10, 2023. https://www.cda-adc.ca/jcda/vol-69/issue-11/722.pdf.
Reddy A, Norris DF, Momeni SS, Waldo B, Ruby JD. The pH of beverages in the United States. Journal of the American Dental Association (1939). April 2016. Accessed September 10, 2023. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4808596/.
Nutrition. Canadian Dental Association. Accessed September 10, 2023. https://www.cda-adc.ca/en/oral_health/cfyt/dental_care/nutrition.asp#:~:text=Make%20Water%20Your%20Drink%20of%20Choice%3A&text=Get%20in%20the%20good%20habit,could%20contribute%20to%20tooth%20decay.
Your oral health. Canadian Dental Association. Accessed September 10, 2023. https://www.cda-adc.ca/en/oral_health/index.asp#:~:text=Wait%2030%20minutes%20after%20eating,your%20teeth%20and%20mouth%20properly.
Mystikos C, Yoshino T, Ramberg P, Birkhed D. Effect of post-brushing mouthrinse solutions on salivary fluoride retention. Swedish Dental Journal. 2011;35(1):17-24.
Medjedovic E, Medjedovic S, Deljo D, Sukalo A. Impact Of Fluoride on Dental Health Quality. Mater Sociomed. 2015 Dec;27(6):395-8. doi: 10.5455/msm.2015.27.395-398.
Chewing gum. American Dental Association. Accessed September 10, 2023. https://www.ada.org/en/resources/research/science-and-research-institute/oral-health-topics/chewing-gum.
Whitening. American Dental Association. Accessed September 10, 2023. https://www.ada.org/resources/research/science-and-research-institute/oral-health-topics/whitening.