Many of us are guilty of using a heavy hand while we brush our teeth, but did you know that brushing too hard can actually damage your teeth and gums over time? A common result of hard brushing is gum recession. When you use heavy pressure, your gums actually wear away over time and begin to expose your root surfaces. In a healthy mouth, the part of the tooth that is visible above the gum line is covered in enamel. Enamel is the hardest structure in our body being 97% mineralized, making it even harder than bone! In a person who has recession, the gum has receded away from the enamel and is now exposing the root surface. That root is covered with something called cementum which is only approximately 40% mineralized. So what does this mean? This means that over time, if you continue to “scrub” your teeth a little too aggressively, you can actually start to scrub away that softer root surface and cause increasingly deep wear spots called abfractions. Having recession can cause cold sensitivity and and increased chance of decay. Having an abrfaction can cause food to get stuck in these spaces, cold sensitivity, decay and a darkened appearance. Abfractions can often be repaired with a simple tooth colored filling, but in severe cases a crown may need to be placed or even gum surgery may be necessary to cover the area.
So, how do you know if you’re brushing too hard? Take a look at the bristles of your own tooth brush after having it for about 2-3 months. Do the bristles look new and still straight up and down? Or, do they look smushed and splayed out to the sides (like pictured above). This significant wear on your tooth brush is a good indication that you’re using too much pressure. Always use a soft or an extra soft tooth brush unless you’re cleaning your bathroom tiles! Replace your brush every 3 months. If you just can’t get used to brushing with a gentle hand, consider investing in an electric tooth brush. They do all of the work for you and are nice and gentle on your gums. We love the Sonicare brand which gives amazing results!
If you have recession, or if your brush looks like the one pictured above, let us know at your next visit. Your friendly Elmbrook Family Dental clinical staff would be happy to help you change your habits and keep a beautiful, healthy smile!