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What Happens if You Brush Your Teeth Too Much or Too Hard?

Photo: woman brushing with hello toothpaste

Brushing your teeth is super important. We know it, you know it, everyone knows it. But it’s not enough to just pay lip service to this daily ritual – you’ve got to actually do it. And how you go about brushing is nearly as important as doing it in the first place: as is the case with many things in life, “more” isn’t always better. So, if you tend to rule over your mouth with an iron fist, read on to learn about how to avoid overbrushing.

What happens if I brush too hard?

If you’re an enthusiastic brusher, it may be tempting to envision yourself courageously banishing plaque with mighty scrubbing swipes. The truth though is that plaque is soft and loosely adheres to your teeth – so there’s no pressure to apply pressure. Using too much force when you brush can cause gum recession, a process that results in more of the tooth surface being exposed. Side effects can include increased tooth sensitivity, easier bacteria build up and even tooth loss. Brushing too hard can also lead to erosion of your tooth enamel.

To avoid brushing too hard, make sure your oral health equipment is setting you up for success. We recommend using a toothbrush with soft bristles and remaining mindful during your brushing ritual. It might seem counter-intuitive, but soft bristles are actually capable of cleaning more effectively than hard bristles. You also may want to consider using an electric toothbrush to avoid excessive pressure issues. Because electric brushes are designed to just glide over your teeth and gums, they give you fewer opportunities to get aggressively involved in the brushing process.

What happens if I brush too often?

Much like brushing too hard, brushing too often can also result in enamel erosion issues. A common mentality can be: “if brushing 2x per day is good for my teeth, then brushing 5x per day must be great!” However, toothpastes are inherently abrasive and formulated to only be used 2-3 times per day – so when you brush more often than that, you may be exposing your teeth to more abrasivity than is good for them. Stick to the Rule of Two: 2 times per day, 2 minutes per brushing session.

If you do want to add in a third brush at lunchtime, wait 15-20 minutes after you’ve finished your meal before foaming up. Building in this buffer time after your meal allows the saliva in your mouth to wash away residual acids that may be left over from the food that you ate. Brushing with these acids still present in your mouth can have a detrimental effect on enamel health.

What is proper brushing technique?

So, you’re equipped with a nice soft bristle brush, you’ve got your two-minute timer out, and you’re rocking a relaxed mindset. How should you actually go about the job? Use this brushing technique checklist, and tape it to your bathroom mirror if you’re the easily distracted type 😉 {Note: process is outlined below from a

Proper Brushing Technique Checklist

  • Position the brush at a 45-degree angle
  • Use small, gentle, up-and-down circular motions (don’t “scrub” at your teeth using a side-to-side technique; you’re not playing a violin concerto)
  • Give your gums some love (gently) as it’s important to properly clean the area along and slightly underneath the gumline
  • Remember to brush the tongue-side of the teeth (the side surfaces not visible when you smile) as these are commonly overlooked.

In need of a brushing reset? We’re here to help you foster a fun, relaxed and gentle brushing practice.

Oral Health
Lawrence Fung

about the author

Lawrence Fung is a dentist, entrepreneur, and one of our expert contributors here on the hello blog. After earning his DDS at the University of Southern California’s School of Dentistry, Lawrence served as a General Dentist in the US Navy for four years. Since then, he’s mixed his dental credentials with his love for startups by founding SiliconBeach.Dental, a new breed of dental clinic in LA that leverages tech to make high-quality care more accessible and friendlier than ever before. When he’s not challenging the dental status quo, Lawrence reps his beloved Trojans, crushes hotdog-eating contests, and loves yodeling.

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