woman aggressively brushing her teeth

Hello! This is Dr. Hena reporting with my first blog post article.

First I'd like to thank everyone for welcoming me into the Drews Dental family and into the Lewiston community at large. Being new to a big practice like Drews has been a huge change, but in such a great way. I enjoy working in Lewiston and being around the lovely people here and I am learning so much from the team!

That being said, since I have been working in dentistry, I have noticed that there are so many misconceptions about what is good vs. bad for your teeth, especially when it comes to how to take care of them. It doesn't matter where I worked, or with what age people, there are so many myths and misconceptions about oral healthcare that I figured it was time to discuss common questions and comments surrounding dentistry and the mouth.

I am focusing on these topics in a special series here called MythBusters: Dentist's Edition!!

Dr. Hena Patel photoshopped in with Mythbusters show banner for a dentist's edition of mythbusting
Dr. Hena Patel, busting myths surrounding oral health!

So let's get right into this first one. I have had many patients of all ages and backgrounds tell me they brush as hard as they can to make sure they get their teeth clean. I've also been asked if brushing hard whitens teeth.

Does brushing your teeth harder get them cleaner? Or whiter?

No, it does not. Brushing harder does not actually make your teeth any cleaner or any whiter. In fact, brushing hard can actually cause damage and even trauma to your teeth and gums. It is important that you use a soft toothbrush and apply gentle pressure when you are brushing.

While I can appreciate the dedication to the task of aggressive brushers, everything really is best in moderation, including how we brush our teeth.

Think of it as though you are scrubbing your beautiful new stainless steel refrigerator. You don't want to use steel wool and really go at it vigorously, it would create all kinds of scratches and dull the surface. Yikes, that is painful to think about! If you have ever seen scratches on metal, or permanent scratches left on a chalkboard, you know what I am talking about.

Obviously you are not scrubbing your teeth with steel wool, but when you excessively and aggressively brush your teeth, especially using a hard bristle toothbrush, it can really cause more harm than good.

photo of person's teeth with an arrow pointing to the receding gumline
photo of receding gums

Your gums are delicate!

The gums around your teeth are delicate and brushing them aggressively can lead to receding gums or pain. The photo here on the right has a little arrow pointing to the area above one of the teeth. See how it looks like the gumline has changed? That is what a receding gum line looks like.

Using a soft bristle toothbrush and having a good, gentle brushing technique is really the key to keeping your mouth healthy and clean.

How to know if you are brushing too hard!

Not sure whether or not you are brushing too hard? Here are the most common signs that you might be brushing too hard.

Take a look at your toothbrush head!

If you have had your toothbrush for less than three months, it should look like new. If the bristles look flattened and worn already, you may be brushing too hard.

If your toothbrush bristles look like this, it is either way past time for a new toothbrush OR you are brushing way too hard. It is definitely one of the tell-tale signs of aggressive brushing.

Worn out toothbrush image by Ludger Aundrup from Pixabay

Toothbrushes get old and become less effective with time. Don't forget to replace your toothbrush every 3 or 4 months. Or, at the very least, change out your toothbrush every 6 months, please. Which, incidentally, is why we include one in the little bag you get as a reward for getting your teeth cleaned.

Take a look at your gum line!

The photo above shows you what a receding gum line looks like; try to identify whether or not you have noticed any changes in yours. If it looks like your gum line may be changing and that your teeth are a bit darker up near the top (the root surfaces are darker than your enamel aka the visible part of the tooth) then you might be brushing too hard.

Have you noticed any sensitivity?

Have you started to notice that icy cold or steaming hot drinks sometimes cause you a bit of pain? When your gums begin to recede it can definitely make you feel more sensitive to hot and cold than you have been in the past. Enamel erosion (exposing the dentin) can also increase sensitivity. So more sensitive teeth could be a sign that you are brushing too hard.

Good Brushing Tips & Techniques

Beyond using a soft toothbrush and being gentle, there are additional things to keep in mind when you are brushing your teeth. Brushing really hard right after you have finished eating or drinking can sometimes be problematic, too. Acidic foods and drinks tend to soften enamel, so wait an hour before you brush. Drinking water, or swishing and rinsing with water, right before you brush never hurts either. In fact, it is a great habit to drink water in the morning before you brush, it tends to make your morning tooth brushing more effective and is a great way to start the day.

Tooth Brushing Tips

  • Angle the brush
  • Gentle, circular motions
  • Get all surfaces of the teeth (inner and outer)
  • Brush long enough (two minutes)
  • Brush often enough (twice a day)
Good Brushing Techniques

Tooth Brushing Techniques

  1. Place your toothbrush bristles at a 45° angle. The bristles should contact both the surface of your tooth and your gumline.
  2. Gently brush all of the outer surfaces of your teeth, gliding back and forth using a circular motion as you continue along the outside of each of your teeth.
  3. While still maintaining that 45 degree angle, with your toothbrush bristles contacting both the inner surface of your teeth and your inner gumline, gently glide back and forth using a circular motion as you continue along the inside of each of your teeth.
  4. Brush behind your front teeth by tilting your brush to reach and making several up and down strokes using the tip of your toothbrush.
  5. Place your brush along the biting surfaces of your teeth and gently scrub using a back and forth motion. Finish that by brushing your tongue from back to front!

It is easy to concentrate only on the outer and biting surfaces of teeth when you are in a hurry, but it is important to emphasize that all surfaces of each tooth should be brushed, including the most forgotten tongue-side of your teeth. (The 'lingual' side in dental geek speak.)

Think of it this way, when you are brushing your teeth, just concentrate on thoroughly and gently brushing only the ones you want to keep.

You can also consider investing in an electric toothbrush, which can take time getting used to, but is very effective to get those hard to reach spaces. It also automatically times you, by quadrant, so you are more likely to get to every surface of every tooth.

If you are concerned about your toothbrushing technique, give our office a call to schedule an appointment to ask questions (or for a demonstration). Just don't ask me the best way to remove limescale from a porcelain toilet bowl!

Dr. Hena Patel, DMD