Can Overbrushing Hurt my Teeth?

Can Overbrushing Hurt My Teeth?

Brushing is imperative to having healthy teeth and gums. However, you can have too much of a good thing. When you brush your teeth too much, you can cause damage, resulting in sensitive teeth, receding gums, and more.  The percentage of people who have damaged their teeth or gums from overbrushing is between 10 and 20 percent. There are a number of side effects that can occur as a result of brushing too much or too hard.

What Can Happen When You Brush Too Much or Too Hard?

Wear Down Enamel

Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body. It helps to fight tooth decay. Once tooth enamel is gone, it can’t come back. However, you can sometimes restore damaged enamel, as long as it isn’t too far gone. Overbrushing damages the enamel and can leave teeth vulnerable to decay and cavities.

Once your enamel has been worn down, it is important to take good care of your teeth, or you could face bigger problems. Products with fluoride and foods high in calcium can help to remineralize your enamel, helping to make it stronger. Avoid starchy, sugary, and acidic foods, as they can break down your enamel even further. If you do consume an acidic food, wait at least 30 minutes before brushing. Don’t use medium- or hard-bristled brushes, as they can scratch away your enamel.

Receding Gums

Brushing too much and too vigorously can cause your gums to recede, which can lead to periodontal disease, cavities on the roots of teeth, and more. This in turn can lead to further dental treatments, such as fillings, root canals, and tooth extractions. Gum recession can happen gradually, so you may not even realize it is happening until it is moderate to severe.

Once you realizing your gums are receding, it is important to take care that they don’t recede even further. Always use a soft-bristled toothbrush and brush in small, gentle strokes. Brush and floss your teeth every day, and make sure to see your dentist every 6 months.

Tooth Abrasion

Overbrushing, especially if you use a hard-bristled toothbrush, can lead to tooth abrasion. When you brush your teeth, you are doing it to remove plaque. What most people don’t realize is that plaque is very soft. In fact, you can actually brush it off with a cloth, if you can reach it. Those who are meticulous at brushing their teeth are usually the people who suffer the most from tooth abrasion. They are essentially scratching divets in their teeth by brushing way too hard or too often.

If you have tooth abrasion, be sure to use a toothpaste with fluoride in it. This will help reduce sensitivity and the risk of tooth decay. Your dentist can also do a fluoride treatment on your teeth, if your abrasion is severe. In some of the most severe cases, your dentist will have to fill the divets as they would fill a cavity.

Tooth Sensitivity

When you overbrush your teeth, you are wearing down the enamel on your teeth and can also cause your gums to recede. When one or both of these things happen, you are exposing the sensitive root area of the teeth. This is what causes tooth sensitivity. You will likely experience sensitivity when eating or drinking hot or cold foods.

The sharp pain you experience from sensitive teeth may never go away unless you address the root of the problem. However, there are a few things you can do to decrease the sensitivity. Use toothpaste specifically for sensitive teeth, and do regular fluoride treatments. Avoid acidic foods, and lastly, don’t grind your teeth.

Proper Brushing Technique

The best treatment is avoiding overbrushing in the first place. Here are a few best practices of proper brushing technique:

  • Brush teeth for 2 minutes, twice a day.
  • Only use a soft bristle toothbrush.
  • Hold your toothbrush as a 45 degree angle to your gum line.
  • Use short strokes in a scrubbing motion.
  • Apply light pressure, and hold your toothbrush in your fingertips, not in the palm of your hand.
  • Floss once a day.
  • Change your toothbrush often.

Memphis Center for Family & Cosmetic Dentistry

If you think you have been overbrushing your teeth, we can help. At the Memphis Center for Family & Cosmetic Dentistry, we offer general dental services, as well as cosmetic dentistry. We are dedicated to providing you with the best treatment possible to keep your mouth and teeth as healthy as possible. Contact us with any questions or to schedule an appointment.


This article was reviewed by Dr. Miles Moore of Memphis Center for Family and Cosmetic Dentistry. Dr. Moore is a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists who has received extensive training in implant dentistry. He is a member of multiple dental organizations, including the American Dental Association, the American Academy of General Dentistry, the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and the Memphis Dental Society.

Posted by Miles Moore at 1:51 PM
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