X-Ray Myths Debunked

x-rayMost people will have an x-ray at some time during their lives for medical reasons such as diagnosing and/or treating a health issue or injury. Having an x-ray may cause some degree of anxiety for many people because of the myths that surround them.

The use of x-rays has a lot of misconceptions and people begin to question their safety. Some believe that exposure to the radiation it emits can kill them. While it is true that there is positive radiation exposure while conducting x-rays, the fact also remains that radiation is technically everywhere in the environment. It is in the gadgets people use, the food consumed by humans every day, and even in the air.

One popular use of x-rays is for producing an image of the mouth and teeth during dental visits. For most people, especially the first-timers, the anxiety caused by a dental visit is aggravated by the possibility of undergoing x-rays. However, it should always be remembered that the whole procedure is being done by experts in their field, who are trained to provide safe and competent service, and have years of education to back up their skills.

X-ray imaging technique is the oldest type of imaging technique. Contemporary innovations make it now possible to use x-rays with lower levels of radiation exposure.

One of the most common fears of people concerning radiation from x-rays came from the fact that radiation is emitted into the air when a nuclear explosion happens. In addition to this, a lot believe that it can result to mutations and even increased mortality of people. Because x-rays emit radiation, people believe that the effect is same as that of a nuclear explosion. However, this is clearly not true. X-rays emit a very small amount of radiation, negligible enough not to cause damage. According to studies, one can be exposed to more amounts of radiation while on a flight compared to one diagnostic x-ray procedure.

Another popular misconception about x-rays is the belief that its harm can cause damage to the brain when dentists want to have a picture of a person’s teeth. This is based on the proximity of the brain and the teeth. However, the amount of radiation emitted by x-rays is too minimal to cause damage, no matter which part of the body it is exposed to. X-rays are done by dentists to get an accurate image of oral health. This is essential in managing dental problems correctly so as to avoid any complications. This is also used to evaluate alignment of the teeth as well as be one of the bases of patient education done by dentists to support patients in making informed decisions.

Lastly, it should be known that x-rays have no ill effect on breastfeeding women’s milk. In line with this, actual management of breastfeeding women includes undergoing x-rays to assess their overall health. This myth should be dismissed.

In conclusion, x-rays do not emit an amount of radiation that is grave enough to harm humans. Technological advances make it now possible for x-ray machines to emit even smaller amount of radiation compared to previous x-rays. This imaging technique is important for proper management of dental health and other health issues.

Myth Busters For Your Mouth

scary devil“The world is flat,” the Lochness Monster, your mother telling you, “Keep making that face and it’ll stay like that!” when you were growing up, the list goes on… Myths. A myth is an idea, opinion or misconception that evolves into what becomes “fact” or common knowledge. Myths don’t only include the far-fetched and fantasy however. There are plenty of myths out there concerning our health, specifically oral health. Here are 10 common misconceptions of the mouth and the truths about them:

1.    Sugar is the enemy!

While sugar definitely isn’t a friend to neither our teeth nor our diets, it isn’t necessarily the root of all evil when it comes to our oral health either. Many believe sugar and sweets to be the prime cause of cavities, and that the more sugar you eat, the more cavities you get. However, the truth is that it isn’t the amount or even the sugar itself that is the cause of cavities. The acid your mouth produces in the presence of sugar is the real culprit. That acid is made to break down the bacteria that feeds off of carbohydrates (sugar is a carb, and so is rice, potatoes, bread, fruits and vegetables). So sugar, or any carb for that matter, might not be necessarily good when it comes to preventing cavities, but how long they are in contact with your teeth is much more important than the amount. The longer sugar is in your mouth, the more acid is formed that eats away at your tooth enamel, causing tooth decay. With this in mind, sipping sugary drinks all-day or sucking on dissolving candies like lollipops simply aren’t in your best interest. But there’s no need to feel guilty reaching for that candy bar, as long as you brush shortly afterwards!

2.    If you don’t have cavities, you won’t get gum disease.

Being cavity-free is a great thing! But unfortunately it doesn’t give you a “get out of jail free” card when it comes to gum disease. Gum disease can affect you even when your dentist clears your teeth to be in tip-top shape. Many people aren’t even aware that they have gum disease given it is virtually painless. In fact, three out of four Americans have gum disease but only about three percent get treated. Things such as smoking, stress, medications, poor nutrition, obesity, heart disease and family history are all things that can cause or worsen gum disease, as well as other factors.

Gums that bleed easily, are red or swollen, or tender are all signs of gingivitis. If you think you may have gingivitis, get it looked at right away! The earliest stage is the only one that’s reversible; and if caught early, a professional cleaning by your dentist followed by regular brushing and flossing can usually eliminate it. Something to keep in mind if you find yourself with bleeding gums, is to not shy away from brushing! It may make sense to want to take a break from brushing if your gums start bleeding, thinking they need time to heal. However the opposite is true. If your gums are bleeding it means there’s bacteria and plaque building up around them, and if you want the bleeding to stop you need to keep up brushing 2-3 times a day (and gently, not vigorously. We’ll go over that in more depth in myth #4).

3.    If you have a toothache, you should place aspirin next to the tooth.

Swallowing aspirin is the only safe and effective way to take it. Just putting a tablet next to an aching tooth doesn’t allow it to be absorbed into your body to relieve the pain, plain and simple. And placing aspirin next to a tooth will actually do more harm than good. Aspirin is acidic and can actually create a chemical burn to your gums and lips, which could cause an abscess. You’ll then be stuck with the pain of a mouth sore in addition to that aching tooth you were dealing with in the first place. Think of it this way, you don’t place aspirin on your forehead when you have a headache, so why would you do it with a toothache?

4.    Brushing harder means cleaner teeth.

While a little elbow grease and scrubbing may go a long way to make your bathroom shine, the same logic should not be applied to your dental care. Applying too much pressure or using a toothbrush with medium or hard bristles can actually wear down the surface of your teeth and irritate your gums. The fact is, it doesn’t take much pressure to remove plaque and bacteria, brushing (correctly) for 2-3 minutes with a soft-bristled brush and flossing will do the trick. To make sure you’re doing a good enough job when brushing, read our article Are You Brushing Correctly? Brushing more than 2-3 times a day could also be damaging to your teeth and gums, and is probably unnecessary. Try to consume food, especially sugary ones in one sitting so you can brush afterwards, not throughout the day. If you just can’t help but want to brush with some force, you may want to look into buying an electric toothbrush, which “does the work for you.” All you have to do is guide it along, reach all areas and teeth, and make sure you’re doing a full 2-3 minutes, which some electric toothbrushes can help with as well because they have built in timers.

5.    You should brush right after eating acidic foods.

 Brushing immediately after eating acidic foods like oranges, lemons, citric juices, or soft drinks can actually hurt your teeth more than help them. Even though acid harms your teeth and can eat away at the enamel, brushing shortly after consuming acidic foods can push the acids deeper into the enamel of your teeth. Instead, you should rinse your mouth with water after eating or drinking something acidic and wait about 30 minutes to an hour to brush.

6.    Sugar-free soda can’t hurt your teeth.

While sugar-free may sound like a healthy alternative when craving a carbonated concoction, it’s still not good for your pearly whites and can harm your teeth. Sugar isn’t the only not-so-sweet when it comes to your teeth substance in soda (and remember in myth #1 that it’s actually the acid that is worse and the time, not amount that matters). Soda and other carbonated beverages are high in acid, which eats at and destroys tooth enamel. The healthiest choice you can make is water. If you want to help not only your oral health, but health as a whole, eliminate sugary and sugar-free sodas from your diet.

7.    Whitening your teeth weakens them.

We all want a white, dazzling smile, and teeth whiteners have helped us close the gap to whiter teeth when brushing and flossing doesn’t quite get us the results we want. But many fear that using bleaching products on their teeth can be harmful and weaken them; and it makes sense, bleach is a pretty strong agent, right? However, if you follow the directions when whitening your teeth bleaching products are generally harmless. That’s not to say you might not experience some side effects when whitening. Over-bleaching may cause tooth sensitivity and gum irritation, but it won’t weaken the enamel. This is because bleaching agents only affect the color of your teeth by removing some of its pigmentation, but it doesn’t affect their health or strength. If you bleach too much or remove too much pigmentation, your teeth may appear translucent which may cause one to think the integrity of your enamel is at risk, but really it’s just a color change. Whether you use over the counter whiteners or go to your dentist to get your teeth whitened, that’s up to you. Whitening agents used by a dentist tend to be five to 14 times stronger than over the counter whiteners, and usually whiten better and last longer; but can get spendy, sometimes costing $1,000 or more. While you can find over the counter whiteners for $10, but if you decide to use one of those, make sure to follow the directions exactly.

8.    You don’t have to brush kids’ milk teeth (aka, baby teeth).

Because a child will lose their baby teeth, you may think that there’s no point in brushing them. False. Not only is it important to instill good oral care habits in children early, but brushing isn’t only good for teeth but the mouth as a whole. When you brush you’re also promoting healthy gums (which kids don’t get a second set of). As soon as your baby’s first tooth cuts through, you should be brushing their teeth (or tooth) twice a day. For tips on kids and brushing, read our article, 6 Tips For Instilling Good Brushing Technique In Your Kids.

9.    Bad breath means bad oral hygiene.

If you are experiencing bad breath or halitosis, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t doing a good enough job brushing and flossing. Although bad oral care could be a reason, there are many other causes for bad breath, like certain medications, lack of saliva, illness, certain foods, and smoking, just to name a few. There are also certain kinds of bacteria in the mouth that simply give off a stinky smell because they produce sulfur compounds. But if you do have bad oral hygiene, you’re surely putting yourself on the fast track to having sour breath. Be sure to do things that you can control to avoid bad breath such as brushing and flossing regularly and thoroughly as well as cleaning your tongue. To read more about tongue cleaning, check out our article Why Brushing Your Tongue May Not Be Enough. If you do have concerns about bad breath, talk to your dentist about it to make sure it’s not something more and to get more tips on how to avoid it.

10.  Flossing is really just a suggestion if I brush good enough.

Flossing is just as important as brushing and should be an integral part of your oral hygiene routine, not just a supplement. For many, flossing is an afterthought, a hassle, and only thought of every six months or so at their regular check-up. Flossing gets places your toothbrush can’t reach and is a prime way to help fight and avoid gum disease; and it only takes a minute or two to do. In addition to preventing gum disease, flossing regularly can also thwart bad breath, plaque and bacteria build up (and therefore cavities) as well as other overall health issues.

lightbulbs with one lit It’s no wonder that some myths come about when as much as 12 percent of Americans admitting that they get anxious visiting the dentist. A myth may be easier to swallow than the facts or comfort our fears; while some have a good basis and logic, but with advances in science and understanding more about oral health, we can officially label these mouth myths debunked.