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Six dental myths debunked

Between old wives' tales and sketchy advice on the Internet, it's easier than ever to get the wrong information about dental care.

In some cases, the advice is harmless. But sometimes, following the wrong advice can cost you. You could end up in pain--and needing expensive dental work. That's why it's important to know the real story.

So let's take a look at some of the most common myths--and the real truths behind them.

You should always brush your teeth immediately after eating

Saliva is your mouth's natural way to offset the acids in the foods you eat. So wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth to allow your saliva to work. This is especially important if you're eating or drinking anything acidic such as oranges or lemonade.

You can use mouthwash instead of brushing

Mouthwash and mouth rinses can help freshen breath, and some even have fluoride to help prevent tooth decay. However, nothing does a better job of removing the sticky plaque that builds up on your teeth than good brushing techniques. For those times when you don't have a toothbrush handy, you can try some of these suggestions.

If your teeth look and feel fine, you don't need to see a dentist

Regular checkups are the best way to avoid future problems. Dentists and dental hygienists are trained to look for problems before they occur. Do you use alcohol or tobacco? Eat an unhealthy diet? Then you are more vulnerable to dental problems in general. Why risk it? Get routine checkups every 6 months as recommended and you can avoid the discomfort and expense of dental issues.

You can skip flossing if you use an electric toothbrush

While some electric toothbrushes claim to reach between teeth, none are as effective as dental floss. An electric toothbrush is meant to clean tooth surfaces. Only flossing removes plaque between teeth and below the gum line. It's simple--for healthy teeth you have to brush, and for healthy gums, you have to use good flossing techniques.

Fruit juice and diet drinks are OK to drink

Unfortunately, fruit juices are bad drinks for teeth. They contain natural acids and sugars that can break down enamel, cause cavities, and cause gum disease. Diet drinks also contain acids that wear down tooth enamel over time. Your best bet is always water. If you do choose to drink something else, be sure to drink water afterwards to help rinse away the acids and sugars.

You should rinse your mouth out with water after brushing your teeth

While it's perfectly fine to spit out any excess foam and toothpaste, you should not rinse out your mouth after brushing. If you do, you'll wash away a valuable layer of fluoride that protects your teeth.

Now you know the truth about how to maintain a healthy mouth. Getting your information from credible sources is key. The next time you hear something that doesn't sound quite right, check with a reputable source like the American Dental Association.

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