You’ve been hearing it since you were a small child. To keep your teeth and gums healthy, you need to brush your teeth at least twice a day, everyday. But what your elementary school teachers and your childhood dentist might not have told you is that certain methods of brushing can actually do more harm than good. If you’ve been having problems with your gums and teeths, despite having a good at-home oral care routine, it might be a good idea to re-evaluate how you brush.
You Brush too Hard
When you brush your teeth, you want to remove surface stains, plaque and any remains of the last meal or snack you ate. But, that doesn’t mean you want to vigorously brush or scrub your teeth clean. Brushing with too much force can actually wear down your enamel and can cause your gums to recede or pull away from the teeth, exposing your roots. Gum recession is often associated with periodontal disease, but that is not that only factor that causes it.
There’s no need to scrub your teeth or use a lot of force when you brush. Plaque is very soft and will come off fairly easily with just a bit of pressure. Tartar, which is the hardened form of plaque, can only be removed using special tools such as a scraper, so it’s not even worth trying to scrape it off at home with just a toothbrush.
One way to see if you’re brushing too hard is to look at the bristles of the toothbrush in the mirror. When you brush, they shouldn’t be smashed down. Instead, you should just feel them against your teeth and gums.
Also pay attention to the technique you use. Instead of pushing the brush back and forth across your teeth like a saw, use short strokes and hold the brush at a 45 degree angle. If you use an electric toothbrush, you might want to choose a model that buzzes or otherwise alerts you when you use too much pressure or force.
You might be focusing too much on one area of the mouth when you brush, leading to wear and tear in that area. Remember to get all of your teeth when you brush, too. Divide your mouth into quadrants and spend about 30 seconds brushing each quadrant every time you brush.
You Brush Too Soon
After drinking a soda, eating dessert or having a big meal, your first thought might be "time to brush!" But, brushing immediately after you eat can actually harm your teeth, especially if you just ate acidic foods, such as tomatoes, citrus fruits or soda. The acids linger on your teeth after a meal. When you pick up your brush and brush your teeth, you are effectively pushing the acids into your enamel, increasing your risk for erosion and for increased sensitivity.
For the sake of your teeth, it’s best to wait about half an hour after a meal or snack before you brush. If you want to freshen up your mouth in the meantime, you can try chewing sugar-free gum. It’s also a good idea to rinse your mouth out with water after a meal. The water will wash any acids or food bits off of your teeth.
You Use the Wrong Toothpaste or Toothbrush
The type of toothpaste and the type of toothbrush you use can either end up hurting or helping your teeth. First things first, if you are concerned about cavities or want to protect your teeth from decay, the best thing to do is choose a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
The other ingredients in the toothpaste matter, too, even though they might not be listed as active ingredients. For example, many whitening toothpastes contain abrasives, which are supposed to scrub away surface stains to make your teeth brighter. But, too much whitening toothpaste can wear away your enamel. When the enamel wears away, the dentin beneath the surface is more visible, which can actually make your teeth look more yellow. If erosion is a concern, or if you have a history of sensitive teeth, it’s best to skip the whitening pastes and choose something that is more gentle.
When it comes to toothbrushes, look for ones that have soft bristles and that are the right size for your mouth. A small brush head is ideal for people with smaller mouths, for example. You’ll also want to look at the shape of the head. Usually, a rounded head is more comfortable and less likely to irritate or damage your gums.
If you have any additional questions about brushing your teeth or about the best way to brush for the optimal health of your teeth and gums, the periodontists and dentists at Gallardo & Lamas are happy to answer them. The dental team specializes in treating and preventing gum disease, dental implants, and oral surgery. To schedule an appointment, call (305) 447-1447 today.