We are taught from a very young age to take good care of our teeth and, primarily, to make sure we brush them regularly. But is there a possibility all the brushing has been doing just as much harm as good? The answer is yes. There can be too much of a good thing when it comes to brushing your teeth.

Brushing your teeth regularly is definitely recommended, but dentists warn that there is such a things as overbrushing. Many people brush their teeth too harshly and this can lead to sensitive teeth and receding gums. Brushing too vigorously can wear down the enamel on your teeth, but teeth are fairly strong and the main concern with overbrushing concerns the gums.

Your gums are much softer and more sensitive than your teeth and is much easier to damage. Many people through overbrushing push their gums back, revealing the sensitive root area of the tooth. Receding gums are not only painful but also can lead to other health concerns including periodontal disease and cavities on the roots of the teeth and may lead to the need for treatments such as fillings, root canals and tooth extraction. According to the Wall Street Journal, dentists estimate that ten to twenty percent of the population have damaged their teeth and gums due to overbrushing.

What most people don’t know is that vigorous brushing is not needed to remove plaque from your teeth. Plaque is very soft and easy to remove, the only struggle is that it clings to every surface of your teeth. So harsh brushing is not what is needed, just thorough brushing and there is no benefit from brushing your teeth extra hard.

So if vigorous brushing is not the proper technique, what is? It’s important to remember that the key to good teeth health is thoroughly cleaning your teeth and removing all plaque. This is best achieved through time. Dentists recommend that you brush your teeth for a full two to three minutes for the most effect.

Other helpful tips include the following:

  • Use a soft bristled tooth brush. For the same reason that overbrushing is damaging to your gums, using a hard bristled tooth brush is too aggressive for your soft gums. The stiffness of the brush causes the gums to be pushed back, even if you assume the proper brushing technique in all other areas.
  • Position your tooth brush at a 45 degree angle to the top of your teeth when you brush. This allows you to cover the whole surface of your teeth and the very edge of your gum line, hitting all the essential areas without doing unnecessary damage to your sensitive gums.
  • Move your tooth brush in short strokes and with a scrubbing motion. This is not only more effective in removing the plaque from your teeth, but also helps minimize the harshness with which you brush your teeth.
  • Use less pressure when brushing. You only need to apply enough pressure to feel the bristles against the gums. If the bristles are squishing down, it is too much pressure.

If you simply cannot manage to brush your teeth more softly, it may be a good idea to invest in an electric tooth brush. You still have to worry about how much pressure you use, but it takes the effort out of the types of strokes you use and makes it much easier to keep these good techniques in mind. Beyond this, most dentists recommend electric tooth brushes because they are often much more effective than manual brushing and often lead to better oral health.

Changing your oral care habits is very difficult when you have been doing the same thing every day for years. It is a challenge to remember all of the above tips when you brush your teeth but with time it will become more and more natural and you and your dentist will notice improved gum health.

Photo Credit: National Cancer Institute