We all know we’re supposed to brush twice a day, but what about throwing in an extra round? Brushing in the morning, at night, and after lunch? What about an extra brush after a sugary meal?
Our patients sometimes ask us if there’s such a thing as brushing too often. While over-brushing can be harmful to your health, it has more to do with how you brush, and less to do with how often. That means that even those of us who brush twice a day could be over-brushing.
Brushing too vigorously, or brushing with the wrong type of toothbrush, can damage your sensitive gum tissue. Your dentin and enamel are also susceptible to damage from over brushing.
Bristle Quality Changes Over Time
When your toothbrush is newly minted, its bristles are nice and rounded. If you looked at new brush bristles under a microscope, you’d see perfect, smooth nylon cylinders. Most bristles are then treated to have smooth corners, which makes them far less abrasive.
But over time, those smooth corners become jagged like hundreds of tiny knives, making them unsafe for use on your teeth. That’s why dentists recommend replacing a brush every 6 months, or more often if they start to show signs of wear.
When your toothbrush has damaged bristles, even brushing the standard twice daily can do a number on your teeth.
Not All Brushes are Created Equal
Using the wrong type of toothbrush can lead to gum, dentin, and enamel damage. Your gum tissue is sensitive, so you need to be gentle here! Like we mentioned above, many toothbrushes have rounded bristles. However, not all brushes do!
When you go to the drugstore to buy a manual toothbrush or a replacement brush head, you will see three varieties of bristles: soft, medium, and hard. Make sure you select one with soft bristles. Also, take a close look at the bristles, and make sure the tips are rounded.
If you are unsure about what type of brush to purchase, ask your dentist for a recommendation.
When you brush, you don’t need to apply a lot of pressure. You’re not scrubbing grout in the bathroom tile, you’re brushing your teeth!
A simple tip is to not picture “scrubbing” your teeth, but picture gently “massaging” your teeth. Also, make sure you’re starting from the gum line and going up in down in small, circular motions. Hold your brush at a 45-degree angle to your gum line for the front of your teeth, and at a direct angle for your chewing surfaces. The backs of your teeth call for vertical, back and forth strokes.
After you eat, it’s a good idea to brush, but wait 30 minutes first! That’s especially important if you had something acidic like coffee or orange juice. When you consume acids, the PH balance in your mouth becomes acidic, and that can temporarily weaken your enamel. Brushing while your teeth is in this state can cause permanent damage. After 30 minutes, the PH should be back to normal.
So, the long story short is, don’t hesitate to brush more than twice a day! Preventing damage to your teeth from over-brushing is all in the technique and the tools you use.