Quiz: Are You Falling for Dental Myths?
BY: Victoria Clayton
Do you know all there is to know about maintaining a healthy smile? See if you can separate oral health facts from fiction.
Myth or Truth? Fewer sweets mean fewer rotten teeth.
- Myth. How often you eat sugar is more important than the amount you consume. Here’s why: Nasty bacteria called Streptococcus mutans, which live in your mouth, are primarily responsible for tooth decay. Every time you eat, they feed on the sugar in food and drinks and produce enamel-destroying acid waste. So if you’re continually bathing your teeth in sugar day and night, it’s a never-ending process.
- What to do: Limit eating sweets to mealtimes, when your Streptococcus mutans are revved up anyhow. If not at mealtime, finish your drink or sweet snack within a half hour.
Myth or Truth? Adults are as susceptible to tooth decay as kids are.
- Truth. Wouldn’t it be nice if one of the rewards for getting older was that our teeth somehow became impenetrable? Not so, unfortunately. According to the Australian Dental Association, dry mouth -- a common ailment caused by medications, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, caffeine intake and exposure to a dry atmosphere -- makes many adults highly susceptible to tooth decay. This is because there’s not enough saliva to buffer harmful acid in the mouth.
- What to do: Talk to your doctor and dentist about switching medications or using special rinses and pastes that are formulated to help moisten the mouth. Drinking water throughout the day and chewing sugarless gum are also great mouth-moisteners.
Myth or Truth? A restored tooth is more likely to have future problems.
- Truth. Once a tooth has been damaged, there’s a lot that can be done to fortify it, but the integrity of the tooth will never be the same. A damaged tooth is more susceptible to cracks and chips. Plus, cavities could still occur, as bacteria like to latch on at the margins where a filling or crown meets the tooth.
- What to do: Brushing twice a day and flossing daily is your best defence against future tooth decay anywhere in your mouth. Flossing may be a chore, but it’s vital. One study revealed that 10 percent of New Zealanders admit to never flossing at all!
Myth or Truth? Women with osteoporosis are twice as likely to lose a tooth.
- Myth. The number is actually higher: Women with osteoporosis, or low bone density, are three times as likely as their peers to lose a tooth. After all, teeth are anchored into the jaw, which is a bone. Therefore, anything that affects your bones can also affect your teeth. In Australia and New Zealand, 50 percent of all women older than 60 have osteoporosis.
- What to do: Eating plenty of calcium-rich foods such as dairy products and tofu may help keep your jaw and other bones healthy. Engaging in weight-bearing exercise such as walking, dancing and jogging also seems to help. If you’re 50 years or older, or have a family history of osteoporosis, talk to your doctor about getting your bone density tested. Osteoporosis medications may help prevent damage to your bones and teeth.
Myth or Truth? White teeth are healthier than yellow teeth.
- Myth. We may be obsessed with gleaming white teeth, but colour often tells you nothing about the true health of your choppers. For example, teeth can be bleached very white, but the bone supporting them could be in dire shape. Also, as you age, your teeth naturally become more yellow because more dentin, which lies beneath enamel, is exposed.
- What to do: Pay attention to bleeding gums or pain when you chew. These telltale signs could mean that your mouth really is in trouble.
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