Many of us are serious about our oral hygiene. Caring for our oral health helps promote a healthy smile and helps protect our general health. We do this by following a home dental care routine which includes brushing our teeth, flossing, and using a fluoride mouth rinse.
Brushing, along with flossing is the most important thing you can do to remove food particles and plaque buildup to prevent tooth decay. Brushing also helps stimulate your gums to keep them healthy and prevent gum disease. However, in our efforts for better oral health, some of us may be overbrushing. This can cause more harm than good to your dental health.
What happens if I overbrush my teeth?
Overbrushing, refers to how hard, how long, and how often you brush your teeth, which may be easy to overdo it. Overbrushing can increase the risk for dental abrasion, tooth sensitivity, and gum recession:
- Dental abrasion. Your tooth has four main parts, the enamel, cementum, dentin,and the pulp. The enamel is the outer layer that protects the inner parts of your tooth from acid attacks that cause cavities. Overly aggressive brushing can wear away your tooth enamel prematurely.
- Tooth sensitivity. When toothbrush abrasion wears away the tooth enamel, the dentin, (the layer between the enamel and the pulp), which is softer than the enamel, becomes unprotected. This can cause the nerve endings of the pulp to become exposed or close enough to the surface, causing tooth sensitivity.
- Gum recession. Applying too much pressure when you brush and brushing for a long period of time may also cause your gums to recede or shrink. If the recession progresses far enough, the nerve ends below the gumline protected by the cementum may become exposed, causing tooth sensitivity.
How do I know if I am overbrushing?
Watch for the signs listed below to know if you are overbrushing, or if you are a parent or caregiver of a child who may be overbrushing. Also, your dental professional may let you know if you are overbrushing, during your dental visits.
- Swollen, red or bleeding gums. You may feel your gums irritated when brushing or notice small red steaks of blood any time you spit.
- Teeth and gum sensitivity. Discomfort or sensitivity occurs when consumingcold or hot food or beverages. Sensitivity can also occur when brushing.
- Toothbrush bristles worn or frayed. If your toothbrush looks worn within a few weeks, chances are you are applying too much pressure. Parents and caregivers, check your child’s toothbrush frequently. If the bristles of their toothbrush appear flay or look frayed, review toothbrushing techniques with your child, such as brushing gently and using small circles.
What can I do to prevent overbrushing?
Changing your brushing habits can help reduce wear on your tooth enamel and damage to your gums. Follow the steps below to help you gently care for a beautiful and healthy smile:
- Use a soft bristled toothbrush. This allows the bristles to bend easily when you brush, making it gentler on your teeth and gums.
- Avoid abrasive toothpastes. Toothpastes with high abrasive agents can wear down your tooth enamel. Fluoride toothpastes help strengthen the enamel. Use a fluoride toothpaste with the Seal of Acceptance from the American Dental Association (ADA).
- Use proper toothbrushing techniques. Brush your teeth using gentle pressure, twice a day, for two minutes. It is best to brush before you go to bed. This helps prevent plaque buildup, which can harden into tartar, causing you to overbrush.
- Avoid brushing your teeth right after a meal. Certain acidic foods such as oranges, lemons, or grapefruit can weaken the tooth enamel. Brushing too quickly after a meal can remove the enamel. The ADA recommends waiting at least 60 minutes before brushing.
- Chew sugarless gum with xylitol or rinse your mouth with water. Try this in between meals when you have the urge to brush.