Taking care of your pearly whites may require more than just two dental checkups a year! There are health benefits when it comes to taking care of your teeth. A faculty member at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine (TUSDM) gives insight into some common dental myths and outlines how other factors affect our oral health.
Myth or Truth 1: The consequences of poor oral health are restricted to the mouth.
Myth. Expectant mothers who have poor nutrition may not know that what they eat actually does affect their unborn child and development of the fetus. It can result in a child being more prone to tooth decay later in life. According to Carole Palmer, EdD, RD, professor at TUSDM, “between the ages of 14 weeks to four months, deficiencies in calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, protein and calories could result in oral defects.” Additional data exists that suggests a lack of substantial vitamin B6 or B12 could be a risk factor for cleft lip and cleft palate formation.
Tooth decay among children is becoming more serious and continues to be more common than asthma. “If a child’s mouth hurts due to tooth decay, he/she is less likely to be able to concentrate at school and is more likely to be eating foods that are easier to chew but that are less nutritious. Foods such as donuts and pastries are often lower in nutritional quality and higher in sugar content than more nutritious foods that require chewing, like fruits and vegetables,” says Palmer. “Oral complications combined with poor diet can also contribute to cognitive and growth problems and can contribute to obesity.”
Myth or Truth 2: More sugar means more tooth decay.
Myth. It comes down to the amount of time sugar is in contact with teeth. According to Palmer, items such as candy or sodas are more likely to sit in one’s mouth causing exposure to acids formed by oral bacteria.
With a staggering 40% of teens’ carbohydrate intake being from sodas, it is no wonder they have an increase risk of tooth decay. Any beverage with high sugar content will contribute to demineralization of tooth enamel if consumed regularly. Beverages that are sugar-free are considered safer.
Myth or Truth 3: Losing baby teeth to tooth decay is okay.
Myth. According to Palmer, losing teeth because of tooth decay is not okay. It can damage the developing crowns of teeth below them. If baby teeth are lost prematurely, the permanent teeth may erupt malpositioned and require orthodontics later on.
Myth or Truth 4: Osteoporosis only affects the spine and hips.
Myth. Osteoporosis can affect your face bone and jaw, resulting in tooth loss. Palmer states that a diet lacking nutrients that are needed such as calcium, vitamin D and K can affect the jaw as well. Maintaining a healthy diet is a must to maintain healthy structures.
Myth or Truth 5: Dentures improve a person’s diet.
Myth. In some cases, those with improperly fitted dentures find themselves eating foods that are soft and low in nutrition. Most likely cake or pastries. According to Palmer, “first, denture wearers should make sure that dentures are fitted properly. In the meantime, if they are having difficulty chewing or have mouth discomfort, they can still eat nutritious foods by having cooked vegetables instead of raw, canned fruits instead of raw, and ground beef instead of steak. Also, they should drink plenty of fluids or chew sugar-free gum to prevent dry mouth.”
Myth or Truth 6: Dental decay is only a young person’s problem.
Myth. Everyone is susceptible to dental decay, especially adults and the elderly. Receding gums can result in decay along the roots of the tooth. Drugs that reduce saliva production increase the risk of tooth decay. These can range from antidepressants to sedatives. Palmer explains this happens because the mouth is cleansed more slowly, increasing the risk of oral problems. Drinking water frequently can help.
Chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, are risk factors for periodontal diseases. According to Palmer, “Type 2 diabetes patients have twice the risk of developing periodontal disease of people without diabetes. Furthermore, periodontal disease exacerbates diabetes mellitus, so meticulous oral hygiene can help improve diabetes control.”