You should brush your teeth for at least two minutes, twice a day, according to the American Dental Association (and Dr. Dan)! But how about more often? Can you brush your teeth too much? Yes. It’s possible to over-brush your teeth and damage your teeth and gums. Over-brushing is called “tooth abrasion.” Learn how to prevent over-brushing and how to recover if you’re already dealing with the effects of tooth abrasion.
How Does Over-brushing Happen?
According to the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC, tooth abrasion “is tooth wear originating from friction or mechanical forces from a foreign object, and it predominantly impacts premolars and canines.”
Over-brushing isn’t the only cause of tooth abrasion. The school notes that biting your nails, chewing on pens, pipe-smoking, placing and removing denture clasps, abrasive dentifrices, and stiff toothbrushes can also contribute to the tooth sensitivity and receding gums that are common with tooth abrasion.
What is it about brushing that can damage your teeth? Isn’t brushing your teeth good for you? Not if you’re doing it incorrectly.
You might be over-brushing if:
- If you vigorously brush your teeth using a medium or hard bristle toothbrush.
- You brush in a horizontal motion instead of in a circular motion.
- Your toothbrush bristles are splayed out.
- Your gums are bleeding.
- You brush after every meal.
Let’s talk about this last bullet point! If you brush after every meal and also in the morning and night, that’s five to six times a day. But brushing after a meal means teeth are being worn down when acid levels are at their highest. Wait an hour after each meal to brush to help avoid damaging your tooth enamel.
What Does Tooth Abrasion Look Like?
You can feel and see the effects of over-brushing. First, you’ll feel sensitivity to hot and cold foods. You also feel some pain when you brush and eat if your gums are receding. And when you smile in the mirror, you’ll see “worn, shiny, often yellow/brown” near the necks of your teeth — the opposite of an entirely white smile! After brushing, you’ll likely see blood in the sink when you spit.
Repairing Tooth Abrasion from Over-brushing
Fillings are a common way to repair tooth abrasion.
“Toothbrush abrasion can be repaired by bonding a tooth-colored filling over the abraded area of the tooth,” notes the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry. For severe cases, a crown or veneer might be in order.
Since tooth abrasion means you’ve lost enamel, you’ll also want to take steps to protect any remaining enamel that you have. Brush with a fluoride toothpaste and talk to your dentist about adding a sealant to your back teeth.
In your daily life, do your best to avoid enamel destroyers, like:
- Acidic foods
- Carbonated drinks and fruit juices
- Gum that’s not sugar-free
Avoid Over-brushing with These Teeth Brushing Tips
Over-brushing is preventable! Just keep these simple teeth brushing tips in mind next time you step up to the bathroom sink with a brush full of toothpaste.
- Use a soft-bristle toothbrush.
- Use a toothpaste that is rich in calcium and fluoride. Some kinds of toothpaste have abrasive ingredients that can accelerate tooth loss, notes Colgate.
- Brush your teeth with the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums.
- Brush gently. It doesn’t matter how hard you brush, but how thorough you brush.
- Move the toothbrush back and forth with short, circular movements.
- Brush the outer, inner, and chewing surfaces of your teeth.
- Floss at least once a day to remove bacteria from places your toothbrush can’t reach.
- Drink plenty of water and cut back on acidic and sugary foods and beverages.
Over-brushing or brushing incorrectly can lead to sensitive teeth and receding gums. Make an appointment with Dr. Dan if you think you may have damaged your teeth or gums or if you’ve been desperately brushing your teeth trying to make them whiter. We can help you put together a dental hygiene plan that gets your brushing habits back on track and your teeth whiter than ever.