The issue of looking after our teeth is one that is drummed into us from early childhood. We all start off being told to brush our teeth religiously twice a day and this is an excellent routine to follow through life. Lately, there has been much publicity surrounding the effects of sugary drinks and sweets, especially on developing teeth. However, we also need to consider how much damage over brushing can cause too.
So how much damage can it cause?
It is very tempting to brush the teeth too much. In fact, there are people who insist on brushing their teeth after every meal or drink in the mistaken belief that by cleaning the teeth more often they will remove more plaque. They may think they’re doing the best thing but in actual fact they are probably doing more harm than good especially if they brush too vigorously or if they use a toothbrush which is too hard, or even one which is too soft.
Arguably one of the most serious consequences of over-brushing is the damage that can be caused to gums and unfortunately the results may not become obvious until your later years. In the first instance, over-brushing can cause general soreness of the gums and could lead to bleeding (however, there can be more than one reason for bleeding gums so if you spit blood when you brush your teeth please see your dentist as soon as possible). If you persist for any length of time in brushing too vigorously or if you continue to use hard-bristled toothbrushes, you will eventually notice that your gums start to recede.
Recession of the gums is something which develops over a longish period of time. What you will notice first is sensitivity in the teeth which will be particularly exacerbated by eating and drinking very cold things, or very spicy food. This is because as the gum recedes, more of the dental root becomes exposed. It will become very uncomfortable when you brush your teeth. Visually, you may even notice your gums reddening and your teeth becoming slightly ‘longer’. Ignoring the sensitivity and other effects listed here can lead to periodontal disease which in extreme cases can damage the bone supporting the teeth and, eventually, lead to tooth loss.
Another way that over-brushing can damage the teeth is by wearing away the enamel. This can also lead to sensitivity and eventually to discolouration of the teeth.
Pay extra attention to your toothbrush and toothpaste
The fad for tooth-whitening toothpastes and other products has really taken off in the last few years as people strive for that perfect Hollywood smile. The problem is that some whitening products can be very abrasive – this is how they work - in theory, by helping to remove stains from the teeth using chemical agents. Always be wary of products which claim to whiten your teeth by several shades. These products could contribute towards the erosion of tooth enamel in collaboration with over-brushing. Your dentist is the best person to advise on this subject.
Prevention is the best way
A good dentist will also advise you on which type of toothbrush is best for you, whether an electric one or a manual brush. In general, try to use one which has soft to medium bristles and replace it regularly. Don’t be tempted to overload the brush with toothpaste either; a pea-sized blob is adequate. Dentists advise brushing twice a day for two minutes at a time; this equates to 30 seconds per quadrant. And gentle pressure is enough – don’t brush too hard. Remember - when it comes to preserving your teeth – gently does it!