1. If my teeth look great and I feel no pain, then they are healthy — False

Prevention is key in maintaining a healthy mouth for life, and regular dental hygiene care is important in the early detection of gingivitis, periodontal (gum) disease, and caries (cavities). Often by the time there is pain, advanced disease is present. Early detection of gingivitis, periodontal disease, and caries is important to minimizing lengthy and costly treatments.

2. Gum disease and gingivitis are normal and unavoidable — False

Gingivitis and gum disease are preventable. Gingivitis is an inflammatory response of the gums to bacterial infection and is a condition that can be reversed with improved home care. Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a non-reversible disease that destroys and affects the supporting tissues, including the bone. Maintaining a healthy mouth throughout one’s life is normal and possible.

3. My oral health does not affect my overall health — False

Taking good care of your mouth does more than ensure a bright white smile. A growing body of scientific evidence shows that a healthy mouth contributes to a healthy body. Chronic gum infection is associated with the development of cardiovascular problems such as heart disease, blockages of blood vessels, and strokes; periodontal disease is associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Improvements in oral care that result in a reduction of inflammation enable diabetics to maintain consistent blood sugar levels.

4. Blood in the sink while brushing is normal — False

During regular brushing, blood in the sink or a pink toothbrush indicates the presence of inflammation. A dental hygienist can provide professional dental hygiene care, including developing a personal home care program that will enable us all to maintain healthy gums and teeth.

5. Bad breath is caused by being a bad brusher — False

Halitosis (bad breath) may be a result of poor dental health habits; however, bad breath may also be a sign of other health problems. Poor dental health habits allow bacteria to flourish in the mouth — gingivitis, caries, and periodontal disease all contribute to bad breath. Bad breath may also be the result of vapours created by the lungs after eating certain foods, xerostomia (dry mouth), and other medical conditions such as respiratory tract infections, diabetes, liver, and kidney problems.

6. Mouthwash is a good substitute for flossing — False

Flossing maintains the area between the teeth and prevents cavities. While mouthwashes have been shown to reduce bleeding and inflammation in the tissues throughout the oral cavity, the mechanical removal of bacteria and food debris between the teeth is important to maintaining a healthy mouth. See your dental hygienist to learn more about interdental brushes and other cleaning aids.

7. Bleaching your teeth is dangerous — False

There are many options for brightening up a smile. Side effects are not common. Sometimes there will be an increase in sensitivity during the period of bleaching, which you may wish to discuss with your oral health care provider. To keep your smile safe, arrange for a full oral exam to determine if there is any untreated disease.

8. Oral cancer is caused only from smoking and drinking — False

Tobacco use is the single most important and preventable cause of oral cancer. Other lifestyle and environmental factors that have been identified as risk factors include alcohol consumption, UV rays from the sun, and the human papillomavirus (HPV). Dental hygienists play an important role in the prevention and detection of oral cancer by educating and counseling Canadians in smoking cessation, by performing regular soft tissue examinations, and by screening for oral cancer at every visit.