Umhlanga Dental
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• Myths and Facts
Myth If I lose a tooth in the back of the mouth it is not a big deal, because no one sees it anyway.
Fact Many people prioritize their dental health by taking care of the teeth they can see when they smile and put off care for the teeth they do not see. A number of patients will choose to spend their money whitening their front teeth, instead of putting those funds towards restoring a compromised back tooth. When that back tooth fails, and needs to be removed, the space often gets left there without a bridge or an implant to help fill in the space. Empty spaces in the back are a big deal! When you have an empty space, the adjacent teeth can drift and tilt, causing spacing, gum pockets, and loss of bone. Opposing teeth will tend to slowly erupt out of its socket in an attempt to meet up with another tooth. Additionally, if multiple teeth are lost in the back of the mouth, it causes additional stress on the other teeth, resulting in the enamel to wear faster. In the case of heavy grinders, missing teeth in the back can cause front teeth to wear, chip and break, causing their bite to collapse, and slowly break down what is seen when smiling.

Myth My parents had bad teeth, so my dental problems have to be hereditary.
Fact It is possible your problems might be due to hereditary, but not very likely. Just because your parents had bad teeth doesn’t mean that you are doomed to the same fate. In fact, many times a person’s dental issues can be traced back to poor home care habits that were taught by those parents who had bad teeth because of their own poor home care. The bad oral hygiene techniques were passed down, not the bad teeth gene. Only a small percentage of patients actually inherit their problems.

Myth Bleeding gums are normal.
Fact Bleeding gums are NOT normal. It is a sign that something is wrong and that there is some form of gum disease present. Bleeding results from inflammation of the gums (gingivitis), due primarily from inadequate removal of plaque from the teeth at the gum line. If this plaque is not removed (through regular brushing and routine dental care), it will harden into a substance called tartar, and eventually lead to increased bleeding and gum and bone recession (periodontal disease). In some cases, chronic bleeding can be due to a pre-existing medical condition or blood disorder. Because it is usually painless, many people think it is normal, but it isn't. If your gums bleed when you brush, it might be that you are brushing too hard or using a very hard brush and cutting the gums, but that is not likely because it would be painful. It is most probable that you are not brushing effectively. Daily removal of bacterial plaque, along with regular periodontal cleanings will enable you to have a healthy mouth with healthy teeth and gums.

Myth Diabetes does not affect my oral health.
Fact More and more studies are showing a link between the mouth and the rest of the body, including its correlation with Diabetes. Over 400 different types of bacteria can exist in the human mouth. Many of them thrive in sugars, including glucose, the sugar linked to diabetes. Persons with diabetes have greater than normal risk of gingivitis (inflammation and bleeding of the gums) and periodontal disease, the condition that causes millions of people to lose their teeth. Like any infection, gum disease can make controlling the blood-sugar level very difficult. Diabetes can cause the blood vessels to thicken, in turn slowing the flow of nutrients and the removal of harmful wastes. The result is weakening the resistance of the gums and bone tissue to the spread of infection. Researchers have found that diabetes does, in fact, predispose a patient to gum disease.

Myth You can tell if you have bad breath by breathing into your hand.
Fact At this moment I'm sure that many of you are breathing into your hand to see if you may be one of those affected individuals. Don't bother. One problem associated with bad breath is the inability to self-diagnose. A person with a normal sense of smell usually becomes desensitized to its own stimulants. The majority of individuals with halitosis are often unaware they even have bad breath unless someone around them happens to mention it. Many products found in commercial markets simply try to control oral malodour by masking it with minty and fruity scents. Mint candies, gums and most mouthwashes are not powerful enough on their own to combat the foul smelling volatile sulphur compounds, the molecules primarily responsible for oral malodour. The most effective way to manage oral malodour is by maintaining proper oral hygiene, regular dental cleanings, and diligent brushing of the tongue.

Myth Root Canals are painful.
Fact The vast majority of root canal procedures proceed painlessly, both during and after each visit! With modern techniques and anaesthetics people report that having a root canal treatment is about as unremarkable as having a cavity filled. On the other hand, some people present with what we call a hot tooth. A hot tooth is one in which the nerve is alive, but badly inflamed. The tooth is generally already very painful, especially to hot or cold stimuli. These are the ones that require multiple anaesthetic injections to get numb.

Myth Gum chewing is bad for your teeth.
Fact Chewing sugar-free gum can actually be good for your teeth. It helps to neutralize the acids in your mouth and lift out the food debris that gets trapped in the pits and grooves of your teeth. When you can’t get to a toothbrush, gum chewing is a nice alternative after having a meal or snack. It is the sugared gums that you should avoid at all costs. Additionally, you should limit the length of time you chew gum because lengthy chewing can aggravate your TMJ and cause discomfort and strain on that joint.

Myth Nothing bothers me so I can avoid going to the dentist.
Fact Avoiding dental care is never a smart decision. Some people wait until the pain they have is enough to exceed their avoidance tendency. This fear of pain is one of the major reasons why patients fail to seek help from a dentist until their emergency becomes too severe. At that point, what should have been a simple cavity now becomes a more involved root canal or extraction. Additionally, a patient who avoids routine dental cleanings and gum maintenance can wind up with severe gum disease (Periodontal Disease), which causes gum recession, bone loss, tooth mobility and the eventual loss of teeth. Swellings and infections may result from neglecting these cavities and gum issues, and what would have been unnecessary costs and procedures will now be necessary to restore the mouth back to a better state of health and function.

Myth Having an improper bite does not really affect much.
Fact An improper bite or malocclusion can have detrimental effects on the mouth and the body as a whole. This poor occlusion can cause one to clench and grind their teeth (bruxism), which can result in the loss of enamel, causing teeth to become more sensitive and causing the eventual need for root canal therapy and crowns. When tooth structure is lost, the bite collapses, resulting in the face to develop an older appearance. Grinding can also cause teeth to fracture and can cause mobility of the teeth. When the bite is off, the muscles and joints can become strained, resulting in TMJ problems and jaw pain. When this happens neck problems and headaches can arise, and one's posture can become affected. Keep in mind that a lot of force can be exerted by the chewing muscles. Normal chewing places about 68 lbs/sq inch of pressure on the back teeth. If you intentionally clench your teeth you may increase that force to about 150 lbs/sq inch. However, an individual who clenches and grinds their teeth subconsciously at night can place up 1200 lbs/sq inch of force.

Myth I don't need to list the vitamins, minerals, herbs and homeopathic remedies on my health history.
Fact Dental health care providers should have the following questions on their medical/drug history form: “Are you taking any nutritional supplements?” and “Are you currently taking any herbal or natural homeopathic remedies?” and “If so, are you under the supervision of a nutritionist or an alternative therapist?” If these questions are not on the form, then please make sure to tell your dentist (and other doctors) exactly what you are taking. When taken appropriately, herbal and homeopathic remedies can have a wonderful healing effect on the body. Like many Western drugs, herbal remedies have potential risks, side effects, and drug interactions that can interfere with traditional Western medicines and affect the safe practice of dentistry. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently regulates prescription and over-the-counter drugs but not herbal preparations. It is critical that you list any alternative medications and treatments so that your dentist can research the substance to see if there are any possible contraindications in order for you to be treated in a safe and effective manner.

Myth Smoking can't cause your teeth to fall out.
Fact Smoking can wreak havoc in your mouth. Smokers are many times more likely to develop gum disease, larger deposits of tartar on their teeth, cavities (due to a drier mouth) and eventual tooth loss (from periodontal disease). Smoking can also act to delay healing after surgical procedures or tooth extractions. In addition, smoking has been shown to be detrimental to the successful integration of implants. Recent studies have identified cigarette smoking as a major independent risk factor for periodontal disease (the disease that affects the bone and tissue surrounding your teeth). In fact, the research has shown that when variables such as oral hygiene, age, gender, systemic diseases, medications, and frequency of dental visits are controlled, cigarette smoking is the strongest predictor for developing periodontal disease. Smokers tend to develop gum disease at earlier ages and have more severe cases of it. Research has found that cigarette smoking more than doubled the rate of tooth loss for an individual, and increased the possibility of becoming completely toothless by 4 times.

Myth Oral piercings can't hurt my mouth.
Fact The piercing of oral structures has a higher than normal risk of infection due to the vast amounts of bacteria that thrive in the mouth. Common symptoms following the piercing of intraoral structures include pain, swelling, infection and an increased salivary flow. Other potential complications include the cracking or fracturing of teeth and restorations; the interference with chewing, swallowing or speaking; and the development of nerve sensitivity as a result of the galvanic currents that arise from the metal jewellery contacting the metal fillings in one's mouth. It is important to point out that a large portion of the population of individuals who choose to pierce their lips, checks and tongue will more than likely undergo one or more of the above listed adverse conditions. There are a number of patients who have required a root canal or tooth extraction due to the damage caused by their oral piercings. And it is not unheard of to encounter serious secondary infections or even airway obstruction from excessive swelling. It is best to think long and hard before subjecting one's self to this form of art and self-expression.

Myth I don't smoke so I can't get oral cancer.
Fact It has been established that tobacco is the primary cause of oral cancer, which accounts for 90% of all cases. Smokers are 6 times more likely to develop oral cancers than non-smokers. However, even non-smokers can get oral cancer. The risk factors for oral cancer, aside from tobacco use, include: alcohol use, exposure to sunlight (especially for lip cancer), age (incidence of oral cancer rises steadily with age), gender (men are twice as likely as women to get oral cancer), and race (African Americans are twice as likely as Caucasians to get oral cancer). While smokers fall into the highest risk category, it is highly recommended that everyone be screened routinely for oral cancers.

Myth My wisdom teeth aren't bothering me, so I don't need to have them removed.
Fact Wisdom teeth don’t always need to be removed. Some people’s mouths are large enough to accommodate their growth, and others have wisdom teeth that don’t come close to erupting. However, there are many times when wisdom teeth should be evaluated for removal even in the absence of any form of discomfort, in order to prevent possible cysts, infections or impact on the adjacent teeth.

Myth Diet Sodas aren't bad for my teeth.
Fact Diet soda does not contribute to the development of cavities due to the lack of sugar. However, the acid in diet soda has the potential to contribute to the breakdown of the tooth’s enamel. The pH of regular and diet soda ranges from 2.47-3.35. The PH in our mouth is normally about 6.2 to 7.0 slightly more acidic than water. Once the PH reaches below the range of 5.2 to 5.5, the acid begins to dissolve the hard enamel of our teeth. The phosphoric and citric acids within the diet soda contribute to that acidity. Additionally, when a person drinks regular soda, and combines the acid with the sugar, rampant decay will ensue.

Myth If the appearance of my teeth doesn't bother me, there is no point in getting braces or Invisalign.
Fact Whether or not one should seek orthodontic care at an older age is an individual decision. Many people live with crowding, overbites or other types of alignment problems without the motivation to seek orthodontic treatment. However, many people feel more comfortable and self-confident with properly aligned, attractive teeth. Unlike strictly cosmetic procedures, orthodontic care can also benefit your long-term dental health. Straight, properly aligned teeth are easier to maintain with proper oral hygiene, such as flossing and brushing. This can help reduce the risk of cavities as well as gum disease, which occurs more readily as it becomes increasingly more difficult to clean around crowded and rotated teeth. In addition, people with bad bites may chew less efficiently. In severe cases (particularly when the jaws are not aligned correctly), this can result in nutritional deficiencies. Correcting bite irregularities can make it easier to chew and digest foods. Improperly coordinated upper and lower front teeth also can create speech difficulties, which can be corrected through orthodontic treatment.
Finally, orthodontic treatment can help to prevent premature wear of back tooth surfaces. As you bite down, your teeth withstand a tremendous amount of force. If your front teeth don't meet properly, it can cause your back teeth to wear more readily.

Myth It is OK to let my children brush their own teeth.
Fact This will depend on the child. While it is great to build up a child’s self-confidence and independence, children don’t usually develop the full coordination and understanding of what they are trying to accomplish until the age of 6 or 7. Even though they may want to do this all by themselves, it is recommended that the parent or guardian supervise, check, and when necessary, do additional brushing for their child until the age of 10. Your toddler can have the toothbrush available to pretend brush or for play tooth-brushing along with you. Cavities prevented during this time will save a lot of time, money and trauma in the future.

Myth Whitening is not safe for your teeth.
Fact Tooth bleaching has proven to be a safe and effective way of achieving a more youthful and healthy-looking smile. In fact, the American Dental Association (ADA) has lent its support and approval for enhancing the aesthetics of one's smile via in-office and home bleaching, and has given its Seal of Approval to a number of whitening systems. The safety and effectiveness of this procedure is directly related to the dosage given, the frequency and duration of treatment, the concentration and type of the material used, and the type of tray or system utilized. Like anything, it can be abused, and cause adverse results. During the time that you whiten, the fluoride-rich layer of the enamel is broken down and the teeth become more porous, making them more susceptible to the acids and sugars in your mouth. Within 24-48 hours your tooth's enamel will re-mineralize and build up that protective fluoride-rich layer again. If you become a whitening junkie, and never give your enamel the chance to re-mineralize, then you can cause long term adverse effects to your teeth.

Myth The only way to make my teeth look straighter is with braces.
Fact There are a few ways to correct your smile without having to wear braces or retainers. Among your options are Porcelain Veneers, Bonding and Enamel Shaping. In mild cases of crowding, the more conservative approach is Enamel Shaping, which involves modifying the shape of your teeth by removing or contouring enamel (the hard, white outer layer of a tooth) to create the illusion that your teeth are more balanced in their appearance. This process does not require anaesthesia, and the results are noticeable immediately. Keep in mind that the removal of enamel is an irreversible process, and may also require additional bonding to enhance the appearance of your teeth. Porcelain Laminate Veneers, in my opinion, are the restoration of choice to correct poorly shaped or slightly crooked teeth for those individuals who do not wish to experience orthodontics. Veneers are thin, custom-made shells made of tooth-coloured materials which are bonded to the prepared teeth to enhance the aesthetics of one's smile. This, too, is an irreversible process because a small amount of enamel is usually removed to accommodate the thickness of the porcelain shell. Veneers are used, with tremendous success, for treating gaps and dark spaces between teeth, for teeth that are stained, and for teeth that are worn or eroded at the gum line due to hard tooth brushing. Many of the actors and entertainment personalities who appear to have "picture perfect" teeth have used veneers as a more permanent way to whiten and straighten their teeth. The procedure usually requires 2 or 3 appointments, and the results will make a dramatic difference in the way you look and feel about yourself.