Smokers have more tooth decay than nonsmokers, more problems with periodontal (gum) disease and more risk of oral cancer.
This is the fourth of the oral health myths series and their related facts.
Myth 1: Smoking can make one’s teeth discoloured and that is all.
Fact: Smokers have more tooth decay than nonsmokers, more problems with periodontal (gum) disease and more risk of oral cancer.
Myth 2: If both parents lose their teeth in their 50s, children too will lose teeth at the same age.
Fact: It is not predictable. Just maintain your oral health, get regular dental care, follow a healthy diet and practice good oral hygiene.
Myths 3: It is not possible to catch the bacteria that causes tooth decay from another person.
Fact: It is possible. In fact, transmission of the bacteria that causes tooth decay routinely occurs from mothers to infants.
Myth 4: Tooth loss is a part of aging.
Fact: Tooth loss is NOT unavoidable.
Tooth loss during adulthood is often caused by Periodontal Disease, which is caused by serious infection of the gums that damages the soft tissue and bone which supports the teeth.
Microorganisms, such as bacteria stick to the surface of the tooth and multiply producing toxins, which provoke the immune system to react and cause inflammation (gum swelling and/or bleeding). Gums become swollen, reddish and bleed frequently, especially with brushing and flossing. The affected gums, if unattended sooner or later lead to loosening of teeth as well as falling out of the gums.
Causes of periodontal disease include:
Poor oral hygiene practices especially not brushing teeth at least once a day with fluoridated toothpaste
Not visiting an oral health professional at least once every 12 months for checkup
Inherited or familial situations
Some diseases like diabetes
Myth 5: Bleeding gums is a normal condition.
Fact: As your body does not bleed when you wash, it is not normal for your gums to bleed either. In fact, bleeding gums on casual brushing is the first sign of inflammation and/or infection.
Gums will bleed because soft white dirty deposits (plaque) have stayed for too long on the gums or accumulated where toothbrushes cannot reach to clean them. This is why daily complementary flossing is so important! Flossing will help reach these plaque-ridden areas, which add up to about more than one third (35%) of the tooth surface. Consistently brushing and flossing gently twice a day will cure bleeding gums. If bleeding continues, one has to visit an oral health professional for further evaluation of the gums for possible gum disease or other conditions.
Myth 5: Mouth wash will solve one’s bad breath (halitosis) problem
Fact: There can be many causes for bad breath and mouthwash alone is not the solution. Bad breath can be caused by certain medications, illnesses, foods, and poor oral hygiene practices. The most effective way to fight bad breath is through regular brushing, daily flossing, and especially tongue cleaning or scraping. Tongue cleaning gets rid of any remaining bacteria on one’s tongue, which are the real offenders behind bad breath.
Myth 6: Brushing bleeding gums is bad
Fact: Brushing with fluoridated toothpaste is not only good for the teeth, but also for the gums and the tongue.
Brushing these oral areas helps get rid of soft deposits (plaque) containing bacteria which is what causes inflammation, gingivitis, and ultimately gum disease. Plaque causes gums inflammation and bleeding if it not removed/brushed regularly.
Myth 7: Flossing is not important
Fact: Flossing is an extra step that should not be skipped after brushing the teeth. Skipping flossing usually leads to the build-up of bacteria in hard to reach places between the teeth.
If one does not floss such areas, he/she is not cleaning almost one third (33%) of his/her teeth surfaces that regular brushing does not reach. Bacteria in between teeth areas often cause gum disease, tooth decay, and/or pain. Flossing is cheap, easy, and essential for recommended good oral health. Flossing is an easy way to maintain good oral health.
The author is a lecturer of Dentistry at Muhimbili University of health and Allied Sciences,