Overbrushing: What You Should Know

Brushing our teeth is something we take for granted. We do it daily, at least twice and we floss and use mouthwash. However, we can do incredible damage to our teeth and gums if we overbrush.

What is overbrushing?

Overbrushing is what happens when you brush your teeth for too long, too hard and improperly. Many people are guilty of this and, although you may not notice that you are doing, it’s important to correct overbrushing before it’s too late. Overbrushing leads to many problems that can be detrimental to not only your oral health but your overall health too.

What happens when you overbrush?

When you overbrush, you can severely damage your teeth and gums. If you notice that your gums are red and swollen after you brush, it could be a sign of overbrushing. Bleeding gums are also something to watch out for. Moreover, red, swollen and bleeding gums symptoms of gingivitis (early stages of gum disease) which needs to be treated ASAP before it progresses into periodontitis or advanced periodontitis.

Another sign of overbrushing is gum recession. To look for receding gums, smile in front of a mirror and examine your gums. Recessed gums are lower and expose the roots of your teeth. If your teeth look longer than they used too, then you could have a case of receding gums caused by overbrushing. When we brush improperly, too hard and more than we’re supposed to, our gums suffer and the surface of our teeth’s roots are vulnerable. When roots are exposed, they can be quite painful and make for sensitive teeth. If your gums recede to the point where the gum line has moved too much, it could require surgery to repair it.

Besides gum issues, overbrushing can lead to major tooth sensitivity. When you eat or drink cold and hot foods and feel a tinge of pain in your teeth, you’re experiencing sensitivity. By overbrushing, you are breaking down the outer layer of each tooth. The outer layer of the tooth is called enamel and it protects the underlying layers from destruction. When our enamel wears away from over brushing, it does not come back. Once enamel is gone, it’s gone for good and that leaves you with little options to repair the damage. (You can talk to your dentist about veneers or crowns that are placed on your teeth to help with tooth sensitivity.)

The proper way to brush your teeth

Overbrushing can be corrected if you brush your teeth the right way. To stop overbrushing, place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle along your gum line. Move the toothbrush back and forth over each tooth occasionally switching to a concentric circular motion. Repeat on the inside surface of each tooth and on the top (chewing surface). Don’t forget about your back teeth. These can be hard to reach but you have to get them brushed to keep tooth decay and cavities away. Furthermore, to get rid of bad breath and the bacteria responsible for it, brush your tongue too. You can also brush the inside of your cheeks and the roof of your mouth as long as you are gentle. Bacteria can hide in those areas as well so it’s important to cover every part of your mouth.

It may seem like brushing too hard is better to remove food particles and bacteria, but in fact, it’s more harmful to your teeth. The pressure from overbrushing is too much for our teeth so be gentle.

How long should you be brushing your teeth?

The Canadian Dental Association recommends that you brush your teeth twice daily for 2-4 minutes each time.
Do not exceed four minutes and if necessary, use a timer to ensure that you are not overbrushing. For children who cannot brush their own teeth, brush them gently for two minutes. As your child gets older and you notice that they are brushing too hard and too long, ask their dentist for tips on how to control this before they damage their gums and remove that precious layer of enamel.

Using the right toothbrush

In addition to how long and what techniques are used to brush our teeth, the toothbrush we use also plays a role in combatting overbrushing. When choosing a toothbrush, whether it’s manual or electric (both work equally if you have proper brushing techniques), look for one with soft bristles. Medium and hard bristles can cause further damage to your gums and reduce tooth enamel even more.

When the bristles of our toothbrush wear down, they become useless and can hurt your teeth. Replace your toothbrush every three months to ensure you aren’t wreaking havoc on your teeth and gums. Even with a soft-bristled toothbrush, it’s imperative that you change it every 90 days. For electric toothbrushes, this means changing the head. For manual toothbrushes, this entails throwing the brush out completely and replacing it with a brand new one.

Overbrushing is problematic if you don’t nip it in the bud. If you notice that your gums have receded or that your teeth are sensitive to hot and cold, please contact us. At Dawson Dental we offer solutions to all dental issues so that you can have excellent oral and overall health.