Dental (UN)Truths Everyone Knows

Every profession has any number of myths and misnomers, and dentistry is no different.

By Susan Richards

In honor of April Fool’s Day, we’d like to cover seven head-scratching untruths nearly every dentist has heard a time (or twelve) during their education and career. (Who hasn’t been told “in jest” that dental school is for people who can’t get into medical school?)

“A CIGARETTE A DAY KEEPS THE DOCTOR AWAY.”

Dentists who are a bit long in the tooth (pun absolutely intended) may remember when doctors and dentists were recommending specific cigarette brands for their health properties. With time and a greater medical understanding of the health risks caused by smoking cigarettes, these recommendations have thankfully gone the way of the dodo.

“A VACCINE FOR CARIES IS RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER!”

Some dentists will recall the exciting news of pending preventative measures in the form of a vaccine as much as 50 years ago. It may come as no surprise that not only was the prediction unfounded, but one of the major backers behind the research was none other than the sugar industry. Apparently, they didn’t like getting blamed for all those cavities.

While we know that the cost and treatment of dental caries is a public health concern, there is no viable commercial vaccine available as of yet, despite years of trials and research.

“WEAR BROWN TO WHITEN YOUR TEETH!”

According to the perennially disrespected Rodney Dangerfield, when he asked his dentist about getting his teeth whitened, he was dismissively told to wear a brown tie for contrast instead. While it’s important to maintain a healthy sense of humor, most dentists save that punchline for their dental assistants.

“DON’T GO THE IMPLANT ROUTE. THEY’RE INFERIOR TO REAL TEETH.”

Granted, it depends on the tooth being replaced. However, since their introduction to dentistry 50 years ago, implants have become a popular alternative to dentures and bridges. When there’s enough healthy bone to support the implant, results in function and appearance can match the original teeth – even better when replacing unhealthy or missing teeth. Industry experts project as much as 23% of Americans will have implants by 2026.

“SILLY DENTIST, ORTHODONTICS IS FOR KIDS.”

Hardly. While it may be true that orthodontics used to be geared mainly for children and teenagers, that has all changed. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, a quarter of all orthodontic patients are adults. Thanks to advances in appliance and treatment options, more grownups seek straighter smiles and better bites – and nobody’s calling Bob in accounting a “brace face.”

“ONLY ORAL SURGEONS ARE TRAINED TO REMOVE WISDOM TEETH.”

If you were told in dental school that, “The only ones trained and permitted to remove wisdom teeth are oral surgeons,” raise your hand. If you are an IV-certified dentist with a regular roster of third molar removals, raise your other hand.

“A SIGN AND WORD OF MOUTH IS ENOUGH TO ATTRACT PATIENTS.”

Maybe in small, rural towns in need of a local dentist, this might work. But for everyone else, it’s unrealistic to rely entirely on a physical location and word of mouth to bring in a steady flow of new patients. In 2022, websites, social media, google reviews, and digital marketing are all necessities for the modern dental professional to succeed.

If you happen to have once believed any of these misnomers, don’t feel bad. After all, most myths were once rooted in truth along the way. And speaking of root canals, did you hear the one about…?

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