Are you overbrushing your teeth? Experts share what not to do

Failing to brush your teeth regularly or for long enough can be harmful but, it turns out, so can overbrushing. Here’s how to avoid overdoing it.

Whether it is helping to prevent gum disease or avoiding tooth decay, you probably know the importance of brushing your teeth every day.

But what you might not know is that it is possible to overbrush them.

“Some people do go overboard, the effect of which is something we see on a regular basis in the dental surgery,” Melbourne-based dentist and Australian Dental Association (ADA) spokesperson Dr Andrew Gikas says.

Dentist and ADA Tasmania secretary Dr Gavin Quek agrees.

“People having these issues are often those who are really into their oral health, brushing every single time they have a chance,” Dr Quek says.

“While they might not have tooth decay, what they have instead is gum recession and wear on the teeth.”

4 ways you might be overbrushing your teeth

Brushing too many times a day

“Studies have shown that maximum plaque removal is achieved by brushing two times a day and then plateaus the more often you brush,” Dr Quek says.

“And while you’re unlikely to cause excessive wear on your teeth when you brush several times a day if you have the perfect technique, including using a soft toothbrush, if your technique isn’t ideal, it means there’s more opportunity for trauma to occur.”

Using a toothbrush that is too hard

“It’s a common misconception that the harder the bristles, the cleaner your teeth will be,” Dr Quek says.

Over time, hard toothbrushes can wear down the outer surface of your teeth, which is the enamel, to expose the much softer second layer, called dentine, Dr Quek explains.

“And that’s when people start to complain about generalised sensitivity, especially to cold,” he says.

Scrubbing your teeth

“If you’re repetitively hitting your gums using an aggressive side-to-side scrubbing motion, particularly with a hard toothbrush, you’ll start pushing the gums lower and lower, away from the tooth,” Dr Gikas says.

“This gum recession can expose the root surface of the tooth, which is much softer than tooth enamel.”

Brushing immediately after eating or drinking

If anything acidic has been in your mouth, it temporarily softens the enamel on your teeth.

“If you brush your teeth straightaway, you risk removing some of the enamel before your saliva has had a chance to buffer the acid,” Dr Gikas explains.

As a general rule, wait for 30 minutes after eating or drinking to brush your teeth.

What is the right way to brush your teeth?

The ADA recommends brushing your teeth two times a day, for two minutes each time, and Dr Gikas suggests using the modified Bass technique.

“This involves angling your toothbrush about 45 degrees to the gums, brushing gently in a small circle and then flicking the toothbrush down the tooth to remove the debris away from the gums,” he says.

“Use a soft toothbrush and make the effort to consciously brush each individual tooth.”

When you are finished, spit out the toothpaste, avoid rinsing and don’t forget to floss.

“Brushing is very important, but it only cleans three of a tooth’s five surfaces,” Dr Gikas notes.

“The other two surfaces are between the teeth, which means flossing is vital.”

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Written by Karen Fittall.