The truth about dental fads and trends

To Your Health

By Dr. Sonia Tao-Yi

In this day and age of YouTube, the Internet and Do-It-Yourself (DIY) options, most have access to a wide variety of information, and dental remedies are no different. While the Internet certainly has very useful information, some of the dental fads or trends are concerning the dental profession.

The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry did a survey and asked people what they’d like most to improve about their smile. The number one answer was whiter teeth. It’s no wonder that there are so many products or natural remedies that cater to whitening teeth. Fruits, vinegar, baking soda/hydrogen peroxide, activated charcoal and oil pulling are just a few fads that are prevalent right now.

Fruits and vinegar are acidic and prolonged contact with these substances on your teeth will erode your enamel (outer layer of tooth) and can make you more prone to cavities and sensitivity.

Baking soda/hydrogen peroxide and activated charcoal are also touted as scrubs to give you a brighter smile. Currently, there is no evidence that dental products containing charcoal are safe or effective. Moreover, using materials that are abrasive can actually make your teeth look more yellow. This happens when the enamel is worn and the inner layer of the tooth (dentin), which is yellow, shows through.

In recent years, oil pulling has become fairly popular. This is an ancient remedy from India and southern Asia, which is thought to whiten teeth and improve dental and overall health. This requires you to swish with a tablespoon of edible oil in the mouth for anywhere from a few minutes to 20 minutes or more — swishing/pulling the oil through the teeth and mouth. Some of the oils used are coconut, sesame, olive and sunflower. However, there aren’t any reliable scientific studies to show that oil pulling reduces the incidence of cavities, whitens teeth or improves dental or general health. What we do know for sure is that brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a day will lead to better dental and overall health.

One last trend that is of significant concern to dental professionals is the growing number of DIY orthodontics. This is being done by either mailing in at home impressions or going to a shop to have your teeth scanned. The companies then mail you aligners to straighten your teeth. The lack of supervision by a dental professional can lead to detrimental effects such as tooth loss, gum recession, damage to roots and alteration of your bite. “Posterior open bite” is one area that I have personally seen quite often. The teeth may look straight, but when they bite down, the back teeth do not touch. Function is now compromised and teeth are hitting where they should not be. There are a lot of biomechanics that go into moving teeth, and supervision by a trained dental professional is critical.

If you have any questions, dental desires or goals, please first talk with your dentist to find out what options may work best for you.

Dr. Sonia Tao-Yi practices at City Center Dental Care. She has been practicing dentistry for more than 10 years. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley, followed by dental school at the University of Detroit-Mercy, for which she received an Air Force scholarship. Dr. Tao-Yi can be reached at 757-873-3001 or on the practice’s website at www.dentalcare4u.com.

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