Top 6 dental myths busted


5 minutes

27 May 2024

Children brushing their teeth with their mum and learning about dental myths 

When it comes to your oral health, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction.

If you brush harder, will you be rewarded with cleaner teeth? Do gums really matter when it comes to oral health? Should you visit the dentist yearly, or just when experiencing tooth pain?

In this blog post, we debunk common dental myths to help you make informed decisions about your oral health and ensure your smile remains bright and healthy.

Myth 1: Harder brushing equals cleaner teeth

If I brush my teeth extra hard, they’ll be extra clean, right? Unfortunately, not.

A prevailing dental misconception, vigorous brushing is not synonymous with cleaner teeth. In reality, aggressive brushing may lead to the erosion of your enamel, the protective, outer covering of your teeth, and gum recession, which may lead to increased tooth sensitivity1.

The Australian Dental Association (ADA) recommends using a soft-bristled toothbrush with gentle, circular motions for optimal oral hygiene2.

Soft and gentle wins the oral hygiene race!

Myth 2: Sugar is solely responsible for cavities

False. While it's true that excessive sugar consumption may contribute to cavities, solely blaming sugar for tooth decay overlooks other important factors. To bust this myth, let’s firstly explore what a cavity actually is.

Tooth decay, the culprit behind cavities, is caused by plaque, a sticky film which coats teeth and contains bacteria originating from leftover food particles mixing with saliva. The manifestation of tooth decay becomes evident when a cavity, or hole, develops in your tooth3.

The bacteria in plaque transform sugars and carbohydrates from food and drinks into acid, which gradually causes harm to your teeth. So, while consuming sugary foods and drinks are one of the biggest factors of tooth decay and cavities, failing to practice proper oral hygiene (flossing and brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste) and visiting the dentist at least annually for a scale and clean may amplify its effects3.

Other than sugar, factors which may contribute to developing cavities include frequent snacking, experiencing a chronically dry mouth due to lack of saliva, and smoking4.

While we’re not saying sugar is great for your teeth - don’t beat yourself up for enjoying the occasional sweet treat!

Myth 3: You only need to visit the dentist if you are experiencing tooth or gum pain

False. The saying ‘prevention is better than cure’ is especially true when it comes to your oral health.

“We generally recommend patients visit their dentist every six months,” says Dr Bee Hong Tan, a dentist from HBF Dental.

“Regular check-ups allow dentists to closely monitor your dental health and pick up any concerns early. It’s also a good opportunity to remove any plaque and calculus that has not been removed with regular tooth brushing.”

Failure to attend regular dental check-ups heightens the risk of developing dental diseases like tooth decay and gum disease. Additionally, neglecting oral care has been linked to various chronic health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Critical health concerns, such as oral cancer, might also go unnoticed without regular trips to the dentist5.

Like any other health professional, dentists are there to help. Waiting until pain arises may lead to more extensive and costly treatments.

Myth 4: Gum disease only affects the mouth

False. Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is not confined to your mouth. Periodontitis, the advanced stage of gum disease, wreaks havoc on the soft tissues and bone that support the teeth, potentially resulting in tooth looseness and, ultimately, tooth loss6.

Tooth loss may affect both oral function and appearance, affecting overall quality of life. In addition, compromised oral function is linked to a declining diet and compromised nutrition, meaning potential adverse effects on overall health6.

Research may also indicate a potential link between gum disease and systemic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease7.

When it comes to oral health, don’t forget your gums – they’re just as important as your teeth.

Myth 5: All teeth whitening treatments are created equal.

False. Not only are some teeth whitening treatment ineffective, some are downright dangerous.

A survey conducted by the Australian Dental Association (ADA) in 2022 found that 22% of adult Australians have tried teeth whitening. Of this cohort, just one third whitened their teeth under the supervision of a dental professional8.

In a corresponding media release, Dr Mark Levi, ADA spokesperson and Sydney dentist, spoke about the danger of non-supervised home treatment, including injuries and pain.

“Injuries include soft tissue burns from peroxide, extreme pain if the bleach gets into a crack or hole, blotchiness and damaged enamel – and even swallowing the bleach… when done correctly, there shouldn’t be any pain8.”

When it comes to whitening your teeth, Dr Levi says it pays to see your dentist first.

“People need to get their oral health assessed first to ensure there are no cracks in teeth, untreated dental decay, leaking fillings or other unresolved dental issues that could cause pain, discomfort, damaged nerve pulp - or even more serious problems down the track8.”

There’s also the issue of products which not only have no scientific evidence supporting their whitening effects but also potentially cause harm to your teeth, including activated charcoal9.

If you’re keen to brighten your smile, we recommend always consulting with your dentist to determine the most suitable whitening method for your individual needs.

How can I cover the cost of teeth whitening

Medicare doesn't cover the cost of most dental services the way it does with other health services.

Depending on your level of Extras cover, you may be able to claim for teeth whitening. In-chair whitening is currently around $700 AUD. This is a rough estimate provided at the time of this article, contact your dentist to discuss the cost of whitening and what is right for you.

Learn more about dental cover

Myth 6: Baby teeth don't require as much care as adult teeth.

False. As it turns out, baby teeth significantly impact the overall health of your child – and the state of their adult teeth.

Parents might assume that baby teeth are expendable since they eventually fall out. However, baby teeth play a crucial role in speech development and maintaining space for permanent teeth10. In addition, baby teeth suffering from cavities or decay may damage the adult teeth underneath11.

Dentist Dr Justin Soon says introducing fun incentives may help motivate kids to look after their teeth.

“We encourage parents to create a ‘cleaning calendar’ where they have goals to brush their teeth regularly. Use stickers to track progress and give praise, this will help to inspire an interest in their teeth,” says Dr Soon.

And of course, don’t forget to visit the dentist!

“Eighty per cent of our younger members who had an annual scale and clean had no fillings performed, so you can save in the long run by maintaining regular dental appointments,” says HBF's Jade Furness.

At HBF, we believe that dispelling dental myths is essential for promoting better oral health and overall well-being. By understanding the truth behind common misconceptions, you can make better decisions about your dental care.

Regular dental check-ups and proper oral hygiene (don’t forget those gums) are key to maintaining a healthy smile.

Service your smile at HBF Dental

HBF Dental is now open at 8 convenient locations across the greater Perth area with more centres coming soon. As a Member Plus provider, HBF members can get even more value from their cover by choosing HBF Dental – including 100% back on your first scale and clean*.

Find your nearest centre

*For eligible members when provided by a Member Plus provider. Subject to annual limits. Waiting periods may apply.


1 ABC News - Are you brushing your teeth too hard?

2 Australian Dental Association - Brushing Teeth

3 Healthy WA - Tooth decay and gum disease

4 Healthdirect - Tooth decay

5 Healthdirect - Dental check-up

6 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare - Oral health and dental care in Australia

7 American Academy of Periodontology - Gum disease and other diseases

8 Australian Dental Association - Australians’ teeth whitening: A shady story

9 Healthline - Does Activated Charcoal Teeth Whitening Work?

10 National Library of Medicine - Evaluation of knowledge and attitude of parents about the importance of maintaining primary dentition: A cross-sectional study

11 Healthdirect - Dental care for children