The Biggest Oral Health Questions, Answered


The evolution of the internet has completely changed how we gather information. But even with the world at our fingertips, it can still be challenging to find the answers we’re looking for. For example, how many times have you had three different sources offer you three very different answers to the same question? What’s more, there are several bad actors who intentionally spread misinformation to muddle the truth.

When it comes to your oral health, we want to make sure you are armed with the best and most accurate information possible. That’s why we created this one-stop-shop that answers some of the most frequently asked questions about dental care.

So, save yourself the time of an extensive search session and get the answers you need to make informed decisions about your oral health!

Do I really need to floss once a day?

On the surface, flossing sounds like a hassle. Why should you floss when you’re already brushing your teeth? But here’s the truth: you do need to floss at least once per day because brushing your teeth is simply not enough.

If you only brush your teeth, you are cleaning just 70% of your tooth’s surface. That means another 30% of your mouth is going unchecked, which can allow harmful bacteria to grow and potentially cause more serious health problems down the line.

The good news is that it is never too late to start flossing! If you haven’t done it in a while (or ever), you may experience some bleeding at first because your gums aren’t used to the pressure of floss. But it should subside within a few days and you’ll be well on your way to better oral health! Here’s an in-depth, no-judgment guide on how to floss.

What kind of toothbrush should I be using?

Just take a walk down any oral health care aisle at a supermarket or drug store and you can see why this is such a popular question: there are so many toothbrushes to choose from! And though only your dentist can make a true recommendation for your unique needs, there is one type of toothbrush that is generally recommended: the soft bristle with rounded tips.

Soft bristles are much easier on your gums and the rounded tips offer a level of protection against abrasion that can happen during vigorous brushing. You may still see medium or hard bristles out in the market, but these can actually cause damage to your gum tissue by creating tiny cuts, which can then lead to infections. Yikes.

So, when it is time to replace your toothbrush, your mouth will thank you for choosing a soft-bristled one with rounded tips.

I have heard you should brush immediately after a meal. Is this true?

This a popular misconception that we are happy to help clear up. While it is true that it is best to brush your teeth after a meal, that doesn’t mean right after a meal! In fact, if your meal was more acidic or sweet (such as fruit salad or a cup of coffee with dessert), it is better to wait at least 30 minutes before brushing.

This is might sound counterintuitive, but waiting a little bit to brush is better for your tooth enamel. As soon as you’ve consumed something sweet or acidic, your tooth enamel begins to weaken. If you brush too soon afterward, your teeth will be in a vulnerable condition from the breakdown and the act of brushing can make it worse. (Think of picking at a scab before it’s healed. That rarely ends well.)

Instead, swish around some water in your mouth afterward to help restore pH levels and wait at least 30 minutes to brush.

Is there really fluoride in drinking water?

Yes, there is! In fact, it is estimated that 76% of the U.S. population receives drinking water with fluoride. We all know fluoride is a key ingredient in almost every oral health product on the market, but how did it end up in our tap water?

Though the link between fluoride and tooth decay was discovered as early as the 19th century, it wasn’t until 1945 when the city of Grand Rapids, Mich. became the first municipality to experiment with fluoridated drinking water. This controlled experiment released published results in 1950 that showed a significant reduction in dental cavities (especially among children) in the Grand Rapids area since the introduction of fluoridated drinking water. The rest is history.

Curious if your community uses fluoride in municipal water? Check out this helpful guide from the CDC.

There are dozens of ways to whiten teeth. Which is the best?

From whitening strips to professional services, there are many options for whitening your smile, all of which come with their own pros and cons. While there truly isn’t one “best” way to whiten your teeth, you can certainly narrow the field based on your budget and overall goals.

The most inexpensive options are the multitude of DIY whiteners you can find at any drug store, such as toothpaste and strips. The downside is that these take a long period of consistent use before you see results. And, in most cases, the results they provide are minor — a shade or two lighter at most. If that is all you’re looking for, then this could be a good route for you.

However, if you’re looking for more intensive whitening, professional whitening will produce the best results. But this route also comes in at the highest price point and is not covered by traditional insurance due to its cosmetic nature. There are ways you can save money (more on that in a bit), so this route might not be completely out of reach if you are on a budget.

No matter which option you prefer, be mindful of how you choose to whiten your teeth. Many whitening products are ineffective and some even dangerous. Check out this complete guide of what works and what doesn’t.


Why do I need to see a dentist regularly? My teeth seem fine!

Just because nothing looks out of the ordinary when you smile in the mirror doesn’t mean everything is all clear on the inside of your mouth. And your definition of “fine” is likely different than your dentist’s. For instance, what you think is a just sensitive tooth could instead be a cavity. Or you may actually be grinding your teeth at night and causing damage you can’t see.

What’s more, the scope of what your dentist looks for during an exam goes far beyond whether your teeth are clean. They also look for signs of infection, decay and even serious systemic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and certain cancers. The eyes may be the window to the soul, but your mouth is the window to early detection, making a routine dental exam one of the best preventative measures you can take.

That’s why it is so critical to see your dentist twice a year for an exam. Even if you check all the good dental care boxes, your oral health will greatly benefit from these visits and save you money in the long term on costly procedures.

How can I afford dental care?

We get it: dental care is expensive and not everyone has access to dental insurance. And as we discussed earlier, some cosmetic procedures and services aren’t even covered by insurance, so you would be footing the entire bill.

But you can certainly work dental care into your budget, even if you don’t have insurance. A dental discount program is an excellent way to access all kinds of dental services, such as exams, cleanings, crowns, bridges and fillings, for 20-50% off normal fees. Since a discount program is not insurance, many of the rules governing how it’s administered are different, allowing for low, budget-friendly membership fees on a monthly or annual basis.

You can also work with your employer, inquire with your financial institution or search the marketplace for options like medical savings accounts, flexible spending accounts or other financial tools to help build a savings for dental care and other future needs. And though a more financially risky option, a dental credit card can also be a solution depending on your situation.

At the end of the day, costs should never be a deterrent to getting the care you need. You always have options, even without insurance.