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September 2, 2012

Overbrushing Your Teeth

Common sense might dictate, “If I brush harder, my teeth will get whiter.” Unfortunately, this kind of thinking can backfire. Overbrushing is the number one cause of tooth abrasion.  Initially, your teeth may look cleaner and brighter with vigorous brushing, but ultimately you will wear the outer white enamel layer thin and the yellow/brown/gray secondary layer will begin to show through.  That may explain why your teeth get darker as you  get older.  If the enamel is worn away, not only will the teeth  look darker, but perhaps even look  thinner.

Toothbrush Abrasion

Toothbrush abrasion may also affect your gums too. Often the earliest sign of the problem is what people describe as a ‘little ledge’ in the tooth at the very margin near the gum. The person often feels this with a fingernail and sometimes there is an ‘electric shock sensation’ when the area is touched with the fingernail or a toothbrush bristle. Sometimes, there are no shocking symptoms but sensitivity to cold may be a regular occurrence. 

As the damage progresses, it becomes more and more noticeable, with the gum tissue receding away, causing the tooth to look longer as more of its root surface is exposed. The damage to the tooth eventually manifests as a v-shaped notch at the gum margin which increases in both width and depth over time.

What’s important when brushing your teeth is not how hard you scrub, but that you use the proper technique and that you do a thorough job. And that is a skill that takes time to master. So don’t just scrub your teeth clean; brush them properly with care and consciousness.  Dentists recommend that you brush your teeth for two to three minutes to get the most thorough cleaning. In my opinion, if you do it right, it should take less than a minute to properly brush your teeth.

The following are some basic tips for brushing your teeth correctly:

  • Floss first.
  • Use a soft-bristled nylon toothbrush to prevent gum damage and dental wear in the root area. Do not use a hard-bristled toothbrush. Do not use a natural bristle toothbrush.
  • Brush your tongue before your teeth. 
  • Place the head of your toothbrush with the tips of the bristles at a 45-degree-angle to the gumline when brushing .Move the toothbrush with short strokes and a circular motion, several times in each spot – do NOT saw back and forth across the teeth with your toothbrush.
  • Apply just enough pressure to feel the bristles against the gums. If you are squashing the bristles, you're brushing too hard.
  • Always brush the backs (tongue facing side) of your teeth first and work your way forward.
  • Use toothpaste with a low abrasive level.

The best way to avoid abrading your teeth and gums is by seeing your dental professional for regular checkups. Make sure that you review proper brushing technique. Once the abrasion damage is done, it is impossible to reverse it naturally.

By implementing a little extra awareness in your brushing technique, your teeth can stay strong and healthy for life.

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