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Oh, the things they’ve heard. If dentists had a dime for every time they listened to an inaccurate statement from a patient, they wouldn’t have to practice dentistry. Some of these misconceptions prevent people from regularly seeing the dentist and having the healthiest smiles they can. Don’t be one of them! Read on to learn the truth about some of the most common dental care myths.
My implant won’t look or feel like a real tooth.
Reality: Dentists make sure the crown that goes on top of the implant (usually a titanium rod inserted into the bone) matches the shape and color of patients’ existing teeth.
All orthodontic treatments are equal.
Reality: Sometimes traditional braces are the best option. Invisalign, the clear, removable aligners, are a good option for people with gaps or spaces in their smiles, or for people who once had braces and need a touchup, notes Horn. But traditional braces work best for complicated cases and for kids, who can’t often be trusted to keep the aligners in their mouths.
You don’t need to fill a baby tooth cavity because it’s just going to fall out eventually
Reality: It’s vital to fix any issues with baby teeth because ignoring them can affect the developing adult teeth, Cretzmeyer says. A cavity left unfilled often leads to malformation or discoloration in the adult tooth—the tooth that is permanent. And some kids hold on to their baby teeth into their early teens, which gives decay and cavities plenty of time to wreak havoc.
My root canal procedure will be horrendous.
Reality: Today’s root canals are a far cry from the past, thanks to improvements in technique, materials, and technology like microscopes, which speeds up procedures. Also, dentists now treat infections with antibiotics before the root canal, which help anesthetics work better, says Dr. Steve Gorman of the Gorman Center for Fine Dentistry in North Oaks.
I brushed too hard and my gums receded.
Reality: Many patients, and even dentists, believe that brushing too hard causes gum recession, where the gum around the teeth wears away to expose more of the tooth. Instead, gum disease, clenching, and grinding are the root causes of recession, says Dr. Chad Boger of Boger Dental in Plymouth. The best way to prevent recession is to get regular cleanings, floss, and wear a mouth guard at night.
1. IT WILL HURT.
Reality: Dentists go out of their way to ensure you feel no pain—they want you to keep coming back, says Dr. Melissa Zettler of Cherrywood Dental Care in Savage. Whether you’re having your teeth cleaned, a cavity filled, or a cosmetic procedure, dentists go out of their way to make sure your mouth is plenty numb. They have topical numbing gels to prevent pain before they inject any anesthetic, they can use laughing gas, and some even prescribe anti-anxiety medication. “It’s in our best interest to make it comfortable for you,” she says. “Everyone wins that way.”
2. IF DENTAL INSURANCE DOESN'T COVER IT, I MUST NOT NEED IT.
Reality: Insurance sometimes won’t cover certain services, or it only pays a portion. But that doesn’t mean a procedure isn’t important, notes Dr. Gesica Horn of Serene Oaks Dental in North Oaks. Some people need to have their teeth cleaned every three months, but insurance generally pays for two a year. Many dentists recommend that adults receive fluoride treatments to keep their teeth strong and healthy, but insurance typically does not cover such flouride treatments, either. “The dental insurance company isn’t the one doing the examination, and they are not professional dentists,” Horn says. “So why are they making decisions about what you need?”
3. I DON'T GRIND MY TEETH—I’M NOT STRESSED OUT.
Reality: You don’t need to be a high-stress person to do real damage clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth. “I have seen some of the most relaxed, carefree people in the world. But when they sleep, you can’t believe what they do to their teeth,” says Dr. David Cook of Smiles@France in Edina. “You can be any type of person at any age to clench and grind your teeth.” The solution is always the same: Use an appliance that protects teeth from nighttime clenching and grinding, Cook says.
4. I CAN'T SEE THE DENTIST WHEN IT WORKS FOR ME.
Reality: Many dentists no longer operate on the standard 8 a.m.–5 p.m. schedule. They start seeing patients early in the morning, while others provide care into the evening or on Saturdays. Dr. John Cretzmeyer of Dentistry for the Entire Family in Fridley opens his clinic at 7:30 a.m. and offers weekly evening appointments to accommodate his patients’ busy lives. His clinic, like many others, also makes it easy for families by treating all the kids simultaneously.
5. THE DENTIST IS GOING TO CHEW ME OUT FOR THE STATE OF MY MOUTH.
Reality: Dentists view their mission as helping people be healthy. The last thing they want to do is make patients feel bad about themselves. Zettler’s patients often admit they were afraid to come in because they hadn’t seen a dentist in a while. “If they are finally there to do something to help themselves, we are not going to berate them,” she says. “Our job is to educate you and help you make good choices, not to make you feel stupid or guilty. We won’t judge you.”
6. X-RAYS CAUSE CANCER.
Reality: Some patients avoid dental X-rays because they fear being exposed to radiation. “The radiation exposure from dental X-rays is a fraction of the exposure you get on a normal day or on a flight from New York to Los Angeles,” Boger says. “The X-rays are so focused that the amount of radiation your body gets is very low.” Digital X-rays are even better, using 80 percent less radiation than the dental X-rays of your youth. Plus, X-rays identify cavities, gum disease, and bone conditions, a benefit that far outweighs the small amounts of radiation, he says.
7. MY BABY SUCKED ALL THE CALCIUM OUT OF MY TEETH.
Reality: It’s not uncommon for women to have dental issues during pregnancy, but don’t blame the baby! Developing babies get calcium from their mother’s bones and diet, Cretzmeyer says. Sometimes women have pregnancy-related dental issues because hormones and morning sickness do a number on their gums and teeth, which makes it uncomfortable to take good care of their teeth. He recommends a prenatal vitamin and regular cleanings to maintain good oral health during pregnancy.
8. I AM TOO OLD FOR _________.
Reality: Whether it’s a crown, braces, or a tooth implant, you’re never too old to take care of your smile. Yet Gorman often has patients at 55, 65, or 75 saying they’re too old for dental work. “It’s never the case. Our gamut of treatment options are available for people who are in their 90s,” he says. “They could benefit for the next 15 or 20 years from fixing a tooth.” People who look good and feel good take better care of themselves. They walk around with more confidence and often appear much younger than the age the calendar shows. And with everyone living longer, investing in your smile is money well spent.