We are always amused and somewhat surprised by how prevalent certain misconceptions of dentistry are among the public – and how often we hear them from patients. Some are humorous, but some can be harmful if they’re not straightened out. Why do so many people believe these common myths? Where do they come from? What’s the real story behind each misunderstood dental health idea?
Some misinformation is surely ‘inherited’ from those around us or our own family’s way of doing things for so many years. Other misunderstandings come up when a subject is difficult to understand or envision, or it wasn’t well-explained. Some, though, arise from just plain not listening.
“I didn’t think baby teeth could get cavities.”
- Teeth are susceptible to the damage from decay from their time of eruption, which occurs around age 6 months. Children under 5 are frequently exposed to ‘hidden’ sugars that are in breast milk and formula — such as lactose, or those in fruit juice — such as fructose. Parents are so surprised that their young child has cavities, often because they feel they’ve tried very hard to avoid sugary snacks, soda, etc.. What they’re not realizing is that the true source of the sugar that helps create decay was there all along in the ‘healthy’ diet also, and that tooth brushing, hygiene, and dental check-ups are all necessary for preventing cavities (as well as avoiding high sugar diets). Pediatrician Ari Brown, M.D., and Denise Fields are authors of the parenting book “Toddler 411.” They acknowledge toothbrushing as an ugly battle you just have to fight with your kids. “In parenting, there are some things that are just non-negotiable, no matter how much your kids argue. Like tooth brushing, for example. Cavities are painful and expensive, so it’s not up for discussion whether or not we brush our teeth twice a day.” Oral bacteria are also commonly the source of most ear infections for kids, so keeping a clean mouth is healthier in many ways.
“A dentist did a filling, and now my tooth is really sensitive to cold and to biting. Did I have bad dental work done?”
- Not likely. This is a common post-operative complaint, and can happen easily when you are numb at your initial visit and can’t tell us if everything feels ‘right.’ Anytime a tooth has to be restored, the dentist is replacing what nature made with a man-made substance and design. If that design is not in perfect alignment, harmony, and balance with the teeth around it, it can cause problems. If a restored surface is ‘too high,’ the ligament around the tooth roots becomes inflamed, or swollen. This translates to a painful response to pressure, like when we chew food, and sometimes to cold and hot temperatures. It’s a very easy solution 99% of the time – remodeling that surface to fit better against the tooth that bites against it will almost always alleviate the painful response. Occasionally, the tooth has a fracture that has extended toward the nerve center in the tooth, and it will be painful to any expansion or contraction (such as biting or chewing), and temperature changes. In that case, further attention and diagnosis is needed. Oftentimes, the tooth settles down with a better full-coverage restoration like a crown. Less often, it’s necessary to treat the affected nerve in that tooth with a root canal, which stops all painful symptoms. That’s a blog topic for another day!
“Can’t you just put my old [crown, filling, bracket] back on?”
- We wish! We know it seems like when something pops off or breaks, we should be able to ‘stick it back on,’ and there are some lucky times that we can. Mostly, though, there was an underlying reason that the restoration failed, and it has to be addressed. Crowns, fillings, and orthodontic brackets come off sometimes if they are older, were leaking which was weakening the bond of the cement, or are pulled off by Milk Duds and other sticky treats. If there was a poor bond, an ill fit, or recurrent decay, we cannot just put an old restoration back on, sad as it seems. We hope to leave you better off than we found ya!