It’s important to maintain a rigorous dental hygiene routine. But, in pursuit of excellent dental health, some of us may go a little too far and brush our teeth too much.
What? You can brush your teeth too much?! It’s actually more common than you might think as people pursue getting the whitest teeth possible.
Brushing vigorously is important, but if you brush too frequently or use too much muscle power on your teeth or your gums, you could accidentally cause damage and give yourself a number of dental issues.
Let’s break down how you might brush your teeth too much and ways to avoid it.
Toothbrush Abrasion: What Is It?
In a nutshell, toothbrush abrasion is the same thing as “brushing too much.” It just means that you spend too much time brushing your teeth or you brush your teeth with too much pressure. While this definitely gets rid of plaque and bacteria, it can also lead to a number of side effects. Specifically, over-brushing often results in sensitive teeth, receding gums, and more.
How Is It Possible to Brush Your Teeth Too Much?
Most of us have been to the dentist’s office enough times and listened to them lament our poor gum or tooth health to the point that we’ve headed home and brushed pretty intensely with renewed energy and motivation. This time we'll brush so good that our teeth will shine!
There are, unfortunately, a few problems with this approach.
For one, plaque and bacteria don’t require a lot of pressure to be scraped off your teeth. In fact, if you use an electric toothbrush, you don’t need to press down on your teeth more than just a gentle pressure to ensure the bristles are making contact with your teeth. The automatic rotations and vibrations will produce enough power to get rid of most plaque on your teeth almost instantly.
For another, pressing down too much can cause the bristles to actually wear down your teeth over time. This, in effect, does what cavities eventually do over a much longer time span. This is especially true for the gums, which are more sensitive than your teeth and will react negatively to being barraged by bristles.
In most cases, people brush their teeth too much because they are dedicated to getting rid of plaque and avoiding cavities. But unfortunately, brushing your teeth too much can lead to exactly those dental problems and more.
Brushing Too Hard
As mentioned, you should avoid brushing your teeth too hard. With an electric toothbrush, all you have to do is run the bristles lightly over the surfaces of your teeth. You should be more concerned with brushing for long enough rather than brushing hard enough.
Furthermore, not brushing too hard will help your toothbrush heads last for longer.
Even if you use a manual toothbrush, you only need to apply a light amount of pressure as you scrub your toothbrush’s bristles over your teeth.
What is the Optimal Brushing Technique?
If you have an electric toothbrush, the optimal technique is pretty simple.
Start by placing your brush’s bristles flat against the outside surfaces of your teeth. Run your brush across all of those surfaces without pressing down too hard. Then switch the orientation of your brush’s head and brush the inside surfaces of your teeth. Make sure that the angle is flat.
But you aren’t done after brushing the inside and outside of your teeth. Make sure to get the tops of your teeth – food tends to collect there after eating a meal. You’ll also want to tilt your toothbrush’s head slightly up to hit the gumline. This angle should bring the bristles into contact with your gums but not dig into hard for comfort.
Brushing Too Long
Similarly, avoid brushing your teeth for too long. Dentists always recommend that you should brush twice per day (once in the morning and once in the evening, after breakfast and dinner, respectively) for two minutes per session.
The good news? Lots of electric toothbrushes, like Dr. Brite’s Sonic Toothbrush, come with automatic timers built into their handles. These alert you every time 30 seconds pass, so you can progressively move your toothbrush over your teeth and hit each tooth without sticking around in one place for too long.
It's not usually a good idea to brush your teeth for longer than two minutes per session. If you need to spend longer on a spot or bit of plaque, your dental problems probably need the attention of a professional dentist.
Using Too Much Fluoride Toothpaste
People are also becoming increasingly aware of the potential dangers of fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride is a pretty good mineral for reinforcing enamel and getting rid of certain types of plaque and bacteria. However, we already consume plenty of fluoride in our drinking water.
Most people also use fluoride-packed toothpaste, which can lead to health issues later down the road. Specifically, using too much fluoride with your dental care habits could lead to your enamel breaking down over time or even worse side effects, particularly for kids.
The best solution? Use a fluoride-free toothpaste, at least if you live in an area that already gets fortified tap water. Dr. Brite offers multiple fluoride-free toothpaste options so there’s something for everyone.
The Effects of Over-Brushing
How do you know if you’re brushing your teeth for too long? You’ll probably notice one of the following side effects.
For starters, you’ll likely experience increased tooth sensitivity. This is related to the other side effects mentioned below, but it’ll manifest as increased tooth pain, both to pressure and to things like hot or cold temperatures or sweets.
This is only because you’re wearing down the surfaces of your teeth and exposing the sensitive roots or pulp to the environment. This is never supposed to happen with healthy teeth, so it’s important to contact the dentist if you already experience tooth sensitivity.
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As mentioned, your teeth will likely be more sensitive than average since you’ve depleted their enamel by over-brushing. Enamel depletion can lead to a number of other side effects aside from tooth sensitivity, however:
- By wearing down your teeth’s enamel, you could expose their cores to bacteria, which may increase the likelihood of cavities
- Your teeth may become discolored or get pockets/holes over time
- Your teeth could become brittle/hard to use
Enamel depletion is particularly serious since it’s very difficult (and sometimes impossible) for enamel to really be replaced.
Your gums can also be affected by over brushing, particularly if you push your bristles down on your soft gum tissue again and again. Your gums are tough, but they aren’t tough enough to stand up to a repeated barrage of your electric toothbrush’s bristles night after night.
If your gums are abused too much, they might start to recede. You do want your gums to be drawn back a bit since that’s a sign of good dental hygiene. But if your gums recede too much, they might expose the roots of your teeth, leading to serious cavity issues or significant dental decay because your teeth’s roots are not as tough as the enamel that surrounds their upper sections.
Indeed, bacteria can burn through the roots of your teeth a lot more quickly if your gums recede too much. This may eventually require a root canal if a potential bacterial infection goes too far.
More typically, brushing your gums too hard can cause discoloration or small breaks in the skin. If this occurs, you may accidentally contract gum disease like gingivitis. Either way, you'll probably need to go to the dentist for treatment.
The best advice? Don't brush your gums too hard. Instead, direct your electric toothbrush to scrape along your gumline: the area where your gums meet your teeth. Do so gently and without pushing down too hard and you'll be fine.
Ultimately, it’s important to brush regularly and properly. But there’s a difference between brushing correctly and brushing too hard for comfort.
Here are a few good rules of thumb to keep in mind:
- If your gums or teeth hurt, don’t brush so hard or so often
- If you brush your teeth more than twice a day, dial it back unless specifically recommended to do otherwise by your dentist
- If your toothbrush’s heads need to be replaced every month, you’re definitely pushing down too hard and should be more gentle
All in all, learning to brush properly without brushing too hard or too often will go a long way toward helping you enjoy a bright smile and excellent dental hygiene for years to come. If you ever have questions about the right way to brush your teeth, your dentist will be happy to help.
In the meantime, be sure to check out our sonic electric toothbrush options. Dr. Brite’s brushes can help you clean your teeth effectively without requiring you to push down hard on your teeth or gums.