If you are conscientious about your oral hygiene, you probably brush your teeth at least twice a day. You might even brush them after every meal and at bedtime. But if frequent brushing is a good thing, then how can over brushing teeth be a problem? Most dentists would caution against overly vigorous brushing, and if you're an enthusiastic brusher, your teeth may eventually show (undesirable) signs of your spirited technique.
Abrasion, according to the Dental Health Foundation in Ireland, is the loss of tooth enamel and cementum (the covering on tooth roots) due to mechanical forces. Notching around the area where the tooth meets the root is an indication that you may be using an incorrect and possibly heavy-handed brushing technique. And if you combine forceful brushing with a hard-bristled brush and excessively abrasive toothpaste, you have the recipe for tooth abrasion over time. Other causes are opening bottles with your teeth, holding nails or pins in your mouth or biting your nails. Enamel abrasion can be caused by lip or tongue piercings.
Certain foods may exacerbate the effects of over brushing. Waiting at least half an hour before brushing after eating acidic foods, such as citrus fruits, can prevent you from scrubbing that acid across your teeth.
Besides abrading tooth enamel, continued overzealous and improper brushing may cause your gums to recede. When this happens, the softer cementum on the root is exposed and is more vulnerable to decay than the enamel of your teeth. Because of its softer nature, the exposed cementum is easily worn away and notched, leading to sensitivity and pain for some people. It's also important to note that once your gums recede, they never come back to where they were originally, and certain situations may require periodontal surgery.
When the enamel layer of your tooth gets worn, either through abrasion or erosion, nerve endings in the dentin layer are either exposed or close enough to the surface that eating hot or cold foods or drinks can cause sensitivity. Even cold air or touching the tooth when brushing can be uncomfortable. Evaluate your brushing technique and avoid using a hard-bristled brush. In addition, stay away from certain toothpastes like whitening pastes that may be too abrasive or have ingredients that can increase sensitivity.
Proper Brushing Technique
Many people don't realize that you don't have to be heavy handed to clean your teeth thoroughly. If you aren't sure whether you are brushing too hard, check your brush. Do the bristles on your new toothbrush become flattened and frayed within a couple of weeks? That can be a sign that you are using too much pressure, and a new technique is in order.
But first, you need the right equipment. You should use an extra soft toothbrush, which helps to protect enamel surfaces and gums while gently removing surface stains. Brushing your teeth should take about two minutes. Here's how to brush so that your teeth are squeaky clean, but you avoid abrasion:
- Place the bristles of your toothbrush on the gumline at a 45 degree angle. The bristles should slide slightly under the gums.
- Using light pressure and short back-and-forth or circular strokes, brush the surface of each tooth.
- Move around your mouth in a pattern, brushing the outside, insides and chewing surfaces.
- And don't forget to brush your tongue to remove bacteria and to keep your breath fresh.
Keep in mind, over brushing teeth won't give you the end result you want. When you use the appropriate tools and implement a gentle but thorough brushing technique, you'll win the race for clean teeth and a healthy mouth every time.