It’s one of those things where we think more effort means more success. We often think that over brushing our teeth leads to better results because well yes, vigorous brushing means our teeth are getting thoroughly cleaned.
But there’s a problem with that because our teeth can only handle so much. Over brushing (could be forceful brushing which even gets worse if combined with the use of hard-bristled brush and excessively abrasive toothpaste) could result to loss of tooth enamel and cementum (covering on tooth roots). The mechanical forces will thin out the enamel and other things that are supposed to protect the integrity of our teeth in the first place.
This thinning of enamel and tooth root protection can result to tooth sensitivity (nerve endings in the dentin layer get exposed) or gum recession (once gums recede they won’t come back to where they were originally). It could be a lifelong adjustment because the process is often irreversible.
Do you overbrush your teeth?
Old habits are hard to break especially if you’ve been doing vigorous and forceful brushing for many years now. Good news is you can still reduce the effects of over brushing by making more intelligent choices.
You can start with choosing a gentle brush (the one with soft bristles). Even if you still brush hard as you used to, the effects get reduced because the soft-bristled brush has less force. Some people think that soft-bristled brushes are less effective in cleaning compared to hard-bristled ones. That’s not true because even if you do forceful brushing and use superior techniques in cleaning, nothing beats a dentist when it comes to removing plaque and tartar. It might be a waste of effort to try to thoroughly clean your teeth with forceful brushing.
Aside from using a gentle brush, it’s also important to choose a less abrasive or gentler toothpaste. The abrasiveness of toothpaste is a double-edged sword because although it removes tartar, plaque and residues from the tooth surface, this abrasion can also scrape away our tooth enamel. After all, one reason toothpaste works is because there are abrasive elements and microparticles (e.g. calcium and aluminium compounds) that scrape away dirt, residues and plaque. Those same abrasive elements also act on the tooth enamel and the effect gets aggravated with forceful brushing.
Earlier we mentioned that old habits are hard to break. Perhaps there’s still one thing we need to change though and that’s how fast we brush our teeth. Often we’re in a hurry because of work and other responsibilities and most of us have a tendency to brush too quickly and forcefully (by the way, it’s recommended to wait for 30 minutes before brushing your teeth after consuming acidic foods or drinks because the acid and brushing will really scrape the enamel). We’re not aware that we use too much force when we’re brushing because of the rush. It’s like we associate speed with force (use brute force to get something done much faster). However, this could be bad for our teeth because we also scrape away our tooth enamel. More importantly, it’s a bad habit that affects our everyday lives. The rush can help us get through every day but what happens in the long term? Yes, fast-paced living is the norm but at home and at least when we’re just brushing twice a day, perhaps we could still slow down and get aware of what we do in the present. In addition, fast-paced living can make us ignore the dentist and our oral hygiene because after all, maintaining our teeth and gums (plus visiting the dental clinic) takes precious time. The truth though is it could get more time consuming, more expensive and more painful if we don’t visit the dentist and we neglect our oral health.
Much better than discipline
Notice that maintaining our oral health requires extra effort and awareness. The discipline required is just impossible especially now in this modern way of living where we’re always busy with work and other responsibilities. Once in a while we’ll forget to brush and floss and in almost every day (especially before going to work or an appointment) we’ll rush the brushing and unknowingly use too much force on our teeth.
What can we do then? Well, one of your best defences is to visit the dentist every six months. Aside from the professional cleaning, the dentist will be able to spot the problems early and prevent them from getting worse. For example, your dentist might see a crack or small damage on your first molar. It’s an entryway for food debris and bacteria which could then irritate or infect the roots (root canal procedure is possible here). You could avoid costly (e.g. tooth implant, root canal) and potentially painful procedures if the dentist can spot the problem early and take action immediately.
Discipline is still important although a few misses will still likely occur. But still the most reliable strategy is to take the time to visit the dentist (ask if the clinic is open after work hours) to get a professional cleaning and proactive assessment. This way you protect your teeth and gums while still saving some effort from vigorous brushing.