What happens when you brush your teeth too hard?

How do you feel after brushing your teeth in the morning? Does your mouth have that fresh, minty taste? Or have you noticed a recent soreness in your gums—maybe even a toothache? This may come as a surprise, but it could just be that you’re brushing your teeth too hard. Let’s talk about it a little more.

Why You May Be Brushing Too Hard

Most people don’t put a lot of thought into the amount of force they use while brushing their teeth. After all, you’re trying to “scrub” the stains and plaque away, right? But when it comes to cleaning your teeth, harder is never better. Brushing is meant to remove  food particles and plaque, which are often soft and loose. In fact, applying too much pressure when brushing is counterproductive. One common misconception that has contributed to more people brushing too hard is the belief that toothbrushing is meant to eliminate all the bacteria in the mouth. The human mouth is home to 700 different species, totaling over 6 billion bacteria—there’s no way you can kill all those oral microbiomes in 2minutes! Truthfully we don’t want you to either because not all of them are harmful. In fact, some are necessary for good health. So there’s really no need to put much elbow grease into brushing. You’re only trying to rid your mouth of sticky plaque.

How To Know if You’re Brushing Your Teeth Too Hard

If your toothbrush bristles bend into your teeth as you brush or become frayed before the recommended three months are up, you’re probably brushing too hard. Repeated, forceful brushing only leads to more dental issues. Let’s take a look at some symptoms to watch out for:

Increased Tooth Sensitivity

Applying too much pressure when brushing can cause your enamel to wear down and become thin. If enough enamel breaks off, the dentin, which sits close to the pulp tissue (where all the nerves are), becomes exposed. This increases your sensitivity to extreme temperatures and leads to more staining and cavities.

Gum Recession

When you brush and floss your teeth too hard, you’re removing more than just stains—you’re also removing gum tissue. Over time, forceful brushing will not only make your gums bleed but will also cause your gums to recede, affecting the aesthetics of your smile. If gum recession progresses far enough, the roots of your teeth become exposed to the acid-producing bacteria that causes decay.

Yellow Teeth

Cleaning your teeth harder doesn’t make them whiter. Actually the opposite is true: It makes your teeth yellow. Since forceful brushing wears the hard, white enamel on the outside of the teeth, it exposes the inner dentin layer, which is a pale yellow color. The thinner the enamel, the more this yellow hue shows through.

How To Avoid Brushing Your Teeth Too Hard

After years of brushing twice a day every day, you probably don’t give much thought to this mundane task that takes only four minutes of your time. Unfortunately to change your hard-brushing ways, you’ll need to focus on the task at hand—literally.

The way you hold your toothbrush affects how much pressure you apply to your teeth. One way to make sure you don’t apply too much pressure is to brush with your nondominant hand. Place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums so that the bristles can sweep gently underneath your gumline. Wiggle the brush in small circles, making sure to clean the outer, inner, and chewing surfaces of your teeth. Set a timer for 2 minutes and spend 30 seconds cleaning each quadrant, or fourth, of your mouth.

Knowing how much time you have left for brushing will also help you be more mindful about the amount of force you’re using because you won’t be rushing to finish. If you use an electric toothbrush, there’s no need to apply pressure at all. Just make sure the bristles are in contact with your teeth, and the brush does all the work for you.

What You Can Do if You’ve Been Brushing Your Teeth Too Hard

By practicing mindfulness when brushing, you can learn to clean your teeth gently and prevent further damage. But if brushing too hard has already led to sensitivity, discoloration, or receding gums, schedule an appointment with your dentist today so they help you get your oral health back into tip-top shape.


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