Over the years, we have heard many unusual stories when it comes to teeth. Like all things, dental health has its fair share of tall tales and myths as well as some great facts. In this blog, I have mused on five myths and facts in order to arm readers with more information on their mouths, or at least some good ammo for an upcoming general knowledge quiz!

1) You can tell whether you have bad breath by breathing into your hands

False. As mentioned in this BBC Future article, bad breath or ‘ halitosis’ as it is known in the dental community, is officially tested for in one of three ways which include, sniffing a patients breath just 2cm from their mouth, smelling the content of a spoon which has been scraped across the tongue or smelling unwaxed floss which has been used and incubated. The problem with the ‘ breathe in your hands and smell method’ is that your hands don’t exude breath back to you in the way your mouth does, when you speak. We recommend having regular dental health checks and keeping on top of your cleaning routine to help avoid bad breath.

2) Metal braces are magnetic and can set off alarms at airport security checkpoints

False. The materials used to make braces are not magnetic and will not attract unwanted objects or other people’s braces! Neither can they be detected by security alarms. This is all down to the lightweight metal used to create them such as gold plated stainless steel and titanium.

3) Bacteria can live inside your mouth

True. As gruesome as this sounds, there are thousands of types of bacteria that live inside the mouth. Some of these are actually very useful as they help maintain a healthy balance in your mouth but other types are not so good. A build up of certain types of bacteria can lead to gum disease and other dental health issues. The Oral Health Foundation has some good advice on bacteria and dental hygiene.

4) Bad teeth? It’s all down to the genes

False. In the past, genetics were often blamed for problems with teeth and for many years this has been somewhat of a controversial topic. Research recently carried out in the USA has quashed this theory suggesting that, aside from in some cases where a patient has a inherited conditions such as those that can cause weak enamel or poor tooth formation, children and their parents hold the power to control bacteria growth (which can cause tooth decay) in the mouth.

5) The main cause of teeth moving/relapsing after orthodontic treatment is wisdom teeth

False. Although additional teeth and extracted teeth can cause movement, the main reason that we see patients who have had braces before is because their first retainer was lost or unfortunately, not worn often enough.

In order to ‘retain’ all of the good work that has gone into straightening and aligning your teeth, retainers must be worn after treatment to keep teeth in place. Teeth have a tendency to move back to their original position and that’s why we provide a retainer as part of the treatment process. Modern retainers tend to come in two forms here- a thin, fixed metal wire placed behind teeth or removable clear, ‘Essix’ retainers which is slotted over the top of teeth and worn at night. A combination of both types of retainers may also be recommended, depending on the patient. The British Orthodontic Society recently ran an excellent campaign around retention. You can watch one of their short videos here.