Refuting 4 ‘Tooth’ Fairy Tales

  • Published
  • By Capt. Samuel Fowler
  • 86th Dental Squadron
As parents, we are completely invested in ensuring our child’s health and well-being. However, many of us may find it can be very difficult to decipher fact from myth when it comes to oral health. Below you will find a few of the most common misleading myths about children’s dental health that have the potential to misguide you from doing what is best for your child.

Myth #1: If my child has a cavity, it means they need to brush harder.

If your child is brushing twice daily and flossing once daily, yet they are still developing cavities, then brushing harder is not the solution. Not only should we evaluate oral hygiene, but we should also consider their nutrition. Frequent snacking on sugary foods or carrying around a cup of apple juice with frequent sips spread out over the entire day are two of the most common causes of cavities in our little ones. Brushing harder is a common misconception and, unfortunately, doing so can actually cause more harm than good. In fact, brushing too hard can actually be damaging to both teeth and gums. When it comes to good oral hygiene, it is all about proper technique. The plaque on our teeth actually comes off very easily with a light oscillating stroke at a 45-degree angle to the gumline, where teeth and gums meet. When it comes to brushing your teeth, brush smarter, not harder.

Myth #2: My child should not brush or floss as often if it causes their gums to bleed.

Have you ever noticed after your child obtains a small cut or scratch that the surrounding tissue becomes red, swollen, and possibly painful? Those are signs that their immune system is fighting off germs that should not be there in order to prevent infection. The same process happens with our gums if we do not brush and floss regularly. When bacteria build up beneath our gums, it can result in red and swollen gum tissue that tends to bleed easily upon contact. This inflammation of the gum tissue is called gingivitis, and it can only be eliminated and prevented with consistent and proper oral hygiene. After one week of brushing twice daily and flossing once daily, you will notice that your child’s gum tissue will return to a state of health with a pink coloration and no signs of bleeding.

Myth #3: My child’s toothache will eventually heal itself and go away over time.

If your child falls and scrapes their knee, it will generally hurt for a few days, but over time the body will heal itself without any medical intervention. Therefore, why wouldn't a toothache do the same thing? Unfortunately, once bacteria has penetrated through the enamel, the outermost layer of the tooth, there is no way for the tooth to repair itself. Bacteria forms an offensive front that expands toward the center of the tooth where the blood and nerve supply is housed. Possible consequences include pain and development of an infection that may negatively affect the development of the permanent teeth. This destructive process can be halted through the use of Silver Diamine Fluoride and, or, the physical removal of the bacteria and placement of a filling or crown. Taking your child to see the dentist on a regular basis can actually save you a lot of time, money, and heartache. Pro-activity is the key to prevention.

Myth #4: Any problems with my child’s baby teeth are not a big deal because they will just fall out anyway.

This is perhaps one of the most common and damaging myths about children’s dental health. While it is true that all baby teeth will be replaced with permanent teeth, it should be emphasized that baby teeth perform an invaluable role in your child’s growth and development. Teeth are important not only for eating, but also for speaking and smiling as well. Premature loss of baby teeth can be tied to malnutrition, speech impediments, and social issues. Furthermore, baby teeth function to maintain space in your child’s mouth for permanent teeth. Premature loss of baby teeth can increase the likelihood of tooth crowding and the need for dental intervention (such as braces) in the future. In short, every tooth matters. Be sure to take the time to teach your kids about the importance of brushing and flossing their baby teeth so that when their permanent teeth come in they will have the skills they need to keep them clean and healthy.