The American Dental Association tested a sampling of Americans on their knowledge of oral health a couple of years ago, to somewhat embarrassing results. The series of true or false questions regarding some basic oral hygiene information were posed to almost 1,500 adults representing a wide range of the population in the United States. Unfortunately, the results of this “dental IQ test” suggested that Americans knew much less about their oral health than the ADA had originally hoped for. Are you smarter than the average American when it comes to your dental health knowledge?
Q1. True or False: The ADA recommends brushing your teeth after every meal.
Q2. True or False: Cavities are caused by sugar.
Q3. True or False: Your toothbrush should be replaced every 3 months.
A1. FALSE – If you said true, you are among the 90% of the people questioned by the ADA who answered this question incorrectly. In fact, the ADA recommends cleaning your teeth twice a day as opposed to after every meal. Brushing your teeth after every time you eat may actually be harmful to your tooth enamel because of acid erosion. After you eat foods with sugar or fermentable carbohydrates, your teeth become temporarily softened, or demineralized. If you brush during this time you can end up scratching your tooth enamel.
A2. FALSE – This question is somewhat tricky considering sugar certainly is a main contributor to tooth decay. However, the 81% of Americans who said this statement was true, were mistaken. Cavities are technically caused by specific bacteria (Streptococcus mutans) which have the ability to consume sugar and then ferment the sucrose into lactic acid. This wears down tooth enamel and deteriorates teeth.
A3. FALSE – Only 35% of the participants surveyed agreed with this statement, while the other 65% believed a toothbrush should be replaced twice a year. The ADA does recommend more frequent replacement (generally every six weeks) not only because your toothbrush can harbor nasty bacteria, but also because it can lose some effectiveness over time. When toothbrush bristles are frayed they simply won’t clean your teeth as efficiently.