The more medical experts learn about the human body, the more we understand how vital oral hygiene is to your overall health. Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion, myths, and misconceptions about the best oral health care practices.

Blackstone Family Dentistry is here to help you develop habits that promote excellent oral health. Here are some answers to five common questions about oral hygiene practices.

Does sugar cause tooth decay?

Many people believe eating sugar is the primary cause of tooth decay and cavities. While sugar certainly contributes to the decay process, it’s not the main culprit. It’s the series of events that happen after you eat sugar, carbohydrates, and other foods that cause cavities.

When you eat sugary food, acids from bacteria that naturally live in your mouth mix with saliva and cause plaque to build up on your teeth. The acid breaks down minerals in the enamel on the surface of your teeth. But, saliva contains minerals like calcium and phosphates that help restore the enamel. It’s a constant tug-of-war in your mouth.

Eating lots of sugar and carbohydrates throughout the day gives the acids the upper hand in your mouth. Limiting snacking and sugary drinks throughout the day gives your saliva a better chance of repairing any damage.

In addition to reducing sugar and starches, eating more fibrous vegetables and fruits, cheese, yogurt, and other foods high in calcium and phosphates help strengthen your teeth. Avoiding snacks between meals and stimulating saliva flow also help prevent tooth decay.

Does flossing really prevent gum disease?

Flossing is an excellent habit. Daily flossing removes food particles between your teeth where your toothbrush can’t reach. It also prevents plaque from building up. Flossing, combined with brushing and rinsing, can improve overall gum health.

One in eight US adults has some kind of gum disease. Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease, but it is very treatable. Flossing removes plaque and food between your teeth, which can lead to gingivitis.

Recent studies also indicate a potential connection between gum disease and heart disease. Infections in the mouth and gums may cause a build-up of inflammatory substances in the bloodstream, which may then lead to slower blood flow and more blood clots.

Do you really need to brush your teeth after every meal?

The American Dental Association says to brush your teeth twice a day, using fluoride toothpaste. However, you should take your diet into consideration when choosing when to brush.

After you eat acidic food or drink, the acids weaken the enamel on your teeth. Brushing soon after consuming anything acidic (like oranges) can actually scrub off some enamel. Instead, let your saliva’s natural repairing function go to work for about 30 minutes before you brush.

To minimize acidic erosion, limit snacking, and be careful when you drink soft drinks and coffee.

Does added fluoride in drinking water actually prevent cavities?

Fluoride is a mineral that naturally exists in most water sources and helps prevent cavities and repair the enamel on your teeth. It’s actually one of the most common elements in the earth’s crust!

How does fluoride prevent tooth decay? When your saliva has fluoride in it from water, toothpaste, mouthwash, and other sources, your teeth can absorb calcium and phosphates easier. This makes your enamel more resistant to decay.

Over 74% of community water systems in America have fluoride, and the American Dental Association endorses the fluoridation of all community water sources.

The rate of tooth decay and cavities in adults who have access to fluoridated water is significantly less than in adults who do not use fluoridated water.

Dentists recommend adding other fluoride treatments to your oral hygiene plan, even if your water is fluoridated. Your dentist may recommend a fluoride varnish treatment to help strengthen and repair your enamel. Each fluoride “therapy” (fluoridated water, fluoride varnish, toothpaste, and fluoridated mouthwash) has a different formula based on the specific purpose of the treatment.

You should also choose a toothpaste with fluoride, and your dentist may also recommend using a fluoridated mouthwash in your daily oral hygiene routine. Pick a toothpaste that has the ADA seal, which means the toothpaste has the right amount of fluoride.

Be sure to drink plenty of water with fluoride in it. You can check your community water system to find out if it is fluoridated. Not all bottled water contains fluoride.

Are diet sodas better for your teeth than regular soft drinks?

Many people believe diet sodas are a healthier choice than regular soft drinks because they have less (or no) sugar. The truth is that diet soda is very acidic, and diet sodas slowly weaken the enamel on your teeth, just like regular soda.

Some people like to sip their soft drinks throughout the day, which is very unhealthy for your teeth. Every time you take a sip of soda, the bacteria in your mouth works with the acid to weaken the enamel on your teeth. It takes about 20 minutes for the saliva to neutralize the acid. Every time you take a sip, the 20-minute cycle starts all over.
A healthier drink alternative, besides water, is vegetable juice. If you do want to enjoy a cold soda, the best time to do it is during a meal.

Blackstone Family Dentistry is here to help you maintain excellent oral hygiene habits so you can have a happy, healthy smile. Contact us today to schedule a check-up or to learn about our family-friendly services.

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