Brush your teeth twice a day and floss at least once.
It’s pretty common to hear your dentist recite this mantra during your appointment. And it’s often repeated for good reason: it’s sound advice.
Keeping teeth and gums healthy is much easier when you follow a daily brushing and flossing routine. But there are times when patients tell us they’re trying to go the extra mile with their oral hygiene and we can see the effects of their enthusiasm.
The dark side of teeth cleaning
What we’re about to tell you isn’t easy for us dentists to say. It goes against everything we stand for, but here at Keppel Dental, we’re not afraid to tackle tough dentistry topics. Even if that means saying things that are sometimes a little controversial. So here it is.
Brushing can be bad for your teeth.
There! We said it! It wasn’t easy. But now it’s out in the open it’s important we explain ourselves because this isn’t permission to skip brushing. It’s a chance to share what we know about the dangers of over brushing.
What is over brushing?
The technical name for over brushing is ‘toothbrush abrasion’ and affects teeth and gums. Abrasion happens when you brush too hard, too often, too fast, for too long, or you use a toothbrush with bristles that are too firm. Receding gums and the loss of tooth enamel as a result of over brushing may cause teeth to feel more sensitive. In extreme cases, toothbrush abrasion weakens teeth, so chips and cavities are more likely.
You can avoid over brushing by making small changes to how you clean your teeth.
3 Ways to avoid the risks of over brushing
1. Use a soft bristled toothbrush
Broadly speaking, the dental community agrees that soft bristles are better for teeth and gums. They’re as effective as firm and medium brushes but are less likely to damage the mouth. Especially when cleaning along the gum line, where gum recession from over brushing is a risk. The same is true about protecting the enamel on your teeth. If you’re an over-enthusiastic brusher, using a soft brush is less likely to wear away your natural layer of tooth enamel.
2. Time your brushing
Brushing teeth for longer won’t make them cleaner and can cause the tooth to wear away. The Australian Dental Association recommends brushing for around two minutes, twice a day. Set a timer on your phone or buy a two-minute egg timer you can leave in your bathroom. As soon as the time’s up you can stop brushing.
3. Go lightly
Pushing firmly with your brush against teeth and gums doesn’t remove more plaque or bacteria. If brush bristles splay outwards during clearing, you’re probably applying too much pressure. This not only damages teeth but means you’ll need to replace your brush more often. A light touch is all that’s required. Just enough that you can feel the brush moving over your teeth and gums.
If your teeth and gums are showing signs of over brushing, your dentist is likely to say something and offer some tips on how to improve your brushing technique.
Get more tips on improving your brushing routine.
Fixing damage caused by over brushing
There are treatments available to help your teeth recover from over brushing. The best course of action depends on the type of damage and how severe it is.
For example, the advice for treating teeth that become sensitive as a result of over brushing may be to switch to a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth and start using a soft-bristled brush. Not only will brushing feel more comfortable but it can help stop and more tooth enamel from wearing away.
In more severe cases where over brushing has caused holes in the teeth to appear, your dentist may suggest a dental restoration procedure. This could mean getting a composite filling or glass ionomer to protect your natural tooth.
Treatment for receding gums is a little more substantial. Like enamel, gums that have worn away don’t grow back. The only way to lessen the appearance of gum recession is by having a gum graft. This is a relatively new procedure in the world of dental surgery.
Gum grafting involves removing gum tissue from another part of your mouth (usually the roof of the mouth) and attaching it to the area where the gum has receded. Healing may take a few days and a follow up appointment with your dentist to check the results of the graft is needed.
Banishing over brushing from your cleaning routine
Making simple changes such as using a soft toothbrush and limiting the amount of time you clean your teeth two minutes helps protect your teeth from the risks of over brushing. If you feel your teeth and gums are already a victim of enthusiastic cleaning visit our treatment pages where you’ll find more information about the procedures that help reverse the effects of over brushing.Remember, your dentist or hygienist is always happy to give extra advice on how to brush your teeth correctly. Simply mention that you’d like to discuss this during your next appointment.