We’ve all heard the advice a million times over – brush your teeth twice a day to maintain good oral hygiene and keep those pearly whites shining. Brushing our teeth is a part of our daily routine as essential as having breakfast or taking a shower. But did you know it’s possible to have too much of a good thing? Yes, even when it comes to brushing your teeth!
As your friendly dental team at Dentistry on Coolum, we understand the importance of brushing to prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath. But we’re also aware of the consequences of brushing your teeth too much, a habit known as over-brushing.
Over-brushing, while stemming from a place of good intentions, can lead to surprising and somewhat ironic complications in your dental health.
What Is Over-Brushing?
Over-brushing, as the name suggests, is the act of brushing your teeth too often, too hard, or for too long. It’s a common issue that can sneak up on many of us, especially those who are particularly enthusiastic about maintaining their oral health. But how exactly does one fall into the over-brushing trap?
Over-brushing can take a few forms:
Frequency: Brushing more than three times a day is generally considered excessive. While it might seem like the more you brush, the cleaner your teeth will be, this isn’t necessarily the case.
Duration: Spending more than two minutes each time you brush your teeth can also lead to over-brushing. It’s not about endurance, but rather about effective cleaning within a safe time frame.
Force: Applying too much pressure when brushing is another form of over-brushing. Hard brushing can cause wear and tear on your teeth and gums that isn’t reversed easily.
Brush type: Using a toothbrush with hard bristles can contribute to over-brushing, especially when combined with any of the above factors. It’s recommended to use a toothbrush with soft bristles for most people.
Is It Bad to Brush Your Teeth Too Much?
The simple answer to this question is, yes. Over-brushing can lead to a number of undesirable oral health issues. The potential harm caused by over-brushing is twofold – not only does it damage your teeth, but it can also harm your gums.
When we brush too hard, too long, or too often, we risk wearing away the protective layer of enamel on our teeth. This enamel is incredibly important; it acts as the first line of defence against tooth decay, and once worn away, it doesn’t grow back. As a result, over-brushing can lead to sensitive teeth and increase the risk of cavities.
The damage from over-brushing isn’t limited to just our teeth. The gums can also be impacted, potentially leading to gum recession. When you brush too hard, you can cause the delicate gum tissue to pull back from your teeth, exposing the roots and leading to heightened sensitivity, a greater risk of decay, and in severe cases, tooth loss.
Over-brushing is especially detrimental for those who already have weakened enamel or gum disease, as it can exacerbate these issues. It’s a risky habit that can ironically steer you away from the very health benefits you’re trying to achieve through brushing.
What Happens if You Brush Your Teeth Too Much?
When you over-brush, the physical effects can be noticeable and, in some cases, even severe. As we’ve touched on earlier, over-brushing can lead to both tooth and gum damage. But what does this look like in practice?
Firstly, over-brushing can result in tooth wear or abrasion. This is when the enamel, the hard outer layer of your teeth, gets worn away due to the excessive force or frequency of brushing. When this happens, the softer, more sensitive dentin layer beneath the enamel gets exposed.
Dentin is not only more prone to cavities but also contains small tubes that lead to the nerves of the tooth. When this layer is exposed, it can lead to tooth sensitivity, causing discomfort or pain when consuming hot, cold, or sweet foods and drinks.
Secondly, over-brushing can result in gum recession, a condition where the gums start to pull away from the teeth, exposing more of the tooth root. Gum recession can cause sensitivity, increased risk of decay, and if severe, can lead to tooth loss.
But, does over-brushing cause yellow teeth? While over-brushing doesn’t directly cause yellow teeth, it can contribute to them in a roundabout way. As the enamel wears thin due to over-brushing, the yellowish dentin beneath becomes more visible, causing your teeth to appear yellow.
Therefore, while you might be brushing in an attempt to keep your teeth pearly white, over-brushing could have the opposite effect, leading to the discoloration of teeth. This is another reason why it’s so important to brush effectively, rather than excessively.
Recognising Over-Brushed Teeth
Over-brushed teeth can manifest a number of signs and symptoms. If you’re concerned that you may be over-brushing, it’s important to look out for the following signs:
Tooth Sensitivity: One of the first signs of over-brushing is often an increase in tooth sensitivity. This can be a response to hot, cold, sweet, or acidic foods and drinks.
Receding Gums: Gums that are receding, or pulling away from the teeth, can be a sign of over-brushing. This can result in longer-looking teeth and potentially exposed roots.
Tooth Abrasion: This can appear as notches or dents near the gum line, where the enamel has been worn away.
Discoloured Teeth: As previously mentioned, as the enamel is worn away, the underlying yellow dentin may become more visible, causing the teeth to appear yellow.
Bleeding Gums: While this can also be a sign of gum disease, if you notice that your gums often bleed when you brush, it may be a sign that you are brushing too hard or too often.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek professional help. At Dentistry on Coolum, we can assess your brushing technique with a dental checkup, provide advice on how to brush more gently and efficiently, and help treat any damage that may have been caused by over-brushing. It’s never too early or too late to improve your oral hygiene habits, and we’re here to help you every step of the way.
Preventing and Treating Over-Brushed Teeth
Preventing over-brushing largely comes down to proper brushing habits. Here are some tips and best practices to help you ensure you’re looking after your teeth without causing damage:
Use the right toothbrush: Soft-bristled toothbrushes are generally recommended, as hard bristles can be too abrasive on your teeth and gums.
Don’t brush too hard: Use gentle, circular motions when brushing. You’re cleaning your teeth—not scrubbing the floor!
Take your time: It’s recommended to brush for at least two minutes, twice a day. Rushing can result in either missed areas or excessive brushing in others.
Don’t overdo it: Brushing more than three times a day could lead to over-brushing. Stick to morning and night, and possibly after meals if needed.
Use the right technique: Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums and use short back and forth strokes across the sides and tops of your teeth, then hold the brush vertically and use several shorter strokes focusing on the backs of your teeth.
If your teeth are already showing signs of over-brushing, it’s time to seek professional help. A dentist can help manage and treat the symptoms of over-brushed teeth. Treatments can range from using desensitising toothpaste to address sensitivity, recommending special brushes or techniques, to more extensive treatments for severe abrasion or gum recession.
At Dentistry on Coolum, we’re here to help you maintain your best smile. Contact us today to schedule an appointment, whether it’s for a regular check-up or to address any concerns you may have about over-brushing.