Dentists and oral health educators make a point of telling people to brush and floss their teeth if they want to have good oral health, but can you brush your teeth too hard or too much? The answer, unfortunately, is yes.

You can damage your teeth by overbrushing them. The term dentists use is “toothbrush abrasion,” and the result is sensitive teeth and receding gums. What is toothbrush abrasion? Using too much force on your teeth can erode the enamel on your teeth and push back your gums, exposing the root area of the tooth. Both enamel and healthy gums serve as protection against cavities and periodontal disease, so you should do what you can to keep them in good condition.

Many people assume that the plaque that builds up on teeth must be difficult to remove, but it’s actually quite soft and easy to remove from flat surfaces. Your mouth has many hard to reach places, however, so what’s required isn’t vigorous brushing, but sustained brushing. You need to spend time getting those toothbrush bristles everywhere in your mouth – front, back, teeth, and tongue. You do not need to use a hard-bristled toothbrush, though. Soft-bristled toothbrushes work just as well without causing damage. Also, while it’s good to be a thorough tooth brusher, two to three minutes of light brushing in all areas of the mouth will do the job just fine.

4413695802_9e27dc26c1_zHow much pressure is enough? Enough to feel the bristles against the gums. If you experience any pain while brushing, you are either doing it incorrectly or have oral health problems that should be quickly addressed. Scrub your teeth using short movements – the most important thing is that those bristles have access to every place where plaque can build up.

Some patients have an aggressive approach to brushing that may be rooted in childhood guilt due to parents or even dental professionals who told them to brush more or to “Do a better job!” These patients have the commitment to have healthy teeth and are trying their best, but they are overzealous in correcting what they think the problem is. Sometimes it helps to set a timer while brushing and focus on what you are doing, instead of letting your mind wander. Continuous and comprehensive is a much better approach and will not hurt teeth or gums or cause cold sensitivity or pain.

At Dental Associates of West Michigan, we want our patients to know the best ways to take care of their oral health. If you have a question or problem, make sure you ask your dentist about it the next time you schedule an appointment.