Dentist Questions Dental Health

Brushing too hard?

During my most recent dental cleaning, I saw a different dentist who warned that I'm brushing my teeth too hard and wearing my gumline away. Why wouldn't my first dentist have said anything? Recently I switched to an electric toothbrush. Is this a better option to preserve my gums?

35 Answers

Electronic toothbrushes are a great choice as long as you are not putting extra pressure and letting it do its own thing! Floss, then brush gently with a soft to medium head!
Yes. But technocrat is important.
Thanks for your question,

I don't know why one dentist would say something, while another one does - sometimes it's because they don't want to scare you away or alarm you. Maybe your 1st dentist left it up to his dental hygienist to discuss the matter with you. Did you ever ask your 1st dentist about gum recession? Electric toothbrushes have been found to be more thorough with their plaque removal on hard-to-clean tooth surfaces. They usually have soft or extra-soft bristles (very important), and some of them have pressure-sensors that change the pace of the brushing, when it senses that you are pushing/brushing too hard.

Note: no ones gumline "wears away" just because they are brushing too hard though. You may damage and irritate your gums, but they won't recede from the occasional hard brushing.
If you've experienced gum recession, it is due to:
1. Periodontal disease (loss of supportive bone around the roots of your teeth, under the gums)-caused by bad bacterial infecting the pockets surrounding those teeth.
2. Inflammatory responses of your body, where your immune system over-reacts to damage/infection. This has a genetic (inherited) component, and an "epigenetic" (affected by diet, sleep and stress) component.

Happy brushing!
The signs of hard brushing might not be evident then. Yes, electric toothbrush helps a lot.
Perhaps your gums were not receding when you saw the first dentist. Gingival recession can be caused by toothbrush abrasion or "brushing too hard". This is why it is not recommended to use tooth brushes with hard bristles. Switching to a soft bristled toothbrush At the first sign of gingival recession is recommended in order stop or slow down the process. See a general dentist or a periodontist (gum specialist) if it persists.
When you brush, it is best to confine your brushing to your teeth, but make sure you are cleaning all surfaces of your tooth effectively. Brushing should also be passive and light especially at the gumline. This means that ideally people that with gum recession should look at their teeth when they brush, not use toothpaste at the gumline for greater visibility, and have the brush hug the tooth from all different angles without a lot of pressure. It is ok to use a fluoride toothpaste on the chewing surface and the areas where the brushing won't touch your gums.

It is not possible to brush your teeth well with a manual toothbrush without brushing your gums at the same time . However, it is possible to accomplish this goal without hurting your gums with a Braun Professional Toothbrush. There are only 3 brush heads that I recommend using. Please see my video on Youtube at the link below for a more detailed explanation of how to use a Braun toothbrush and don't forget to floss twice a day.
Your first dentist may have not said anything because the dropping down of the gum line (often referred to as recession) may have not been as noticeable. Brushing too hard can cause recession, but using a toothbrush head with softer bristles will decrease the likelihood of this issue getting any worse. Hope this helps!
This is a common result of ‘overzealous’ brushing with poor technique. Since electric toothbrushes are more efficient than manual ones, the impact on the gum tissue can be greater if one is not careful. Soft bristled brushes and brush heads should be used exclusively. The brush should be held at a 45 degree angle towards the long axis of the tooth, NOT perpendicular to the tooth surface since this results in damaging the gum tissue and causing it to recede. Toothbrushes or brush heads should be discarded once the bristles become bent to avoid inadvertent brushing of the gum line. There is no need to press hard either. Food debris and plaque are soft and easily removed. Be advised, gum tissue does not grow back. Careful but thorough flossing and brushing are essential components in maintaining a healthy dentition.
A common misconception among people is that brushing too hard will cause gum recession. Probably not. Actually studies have shown that an abrasive toothpaste is more likely the culprit. Additionally, brushing your teeth in an acidic environment will cause recession too. (For instance, if you drink a lot of sodas or have GERD type problems. Some folks say that people who grind there teeth can have receding gums, from the pressure on the teeth. Even a history of orthodonrics can cause problems. So its not as simple as just brushing too hard
If you brush incorrectly and too hard with a hard brush you can brush away the gum tissue and expose your root which will wear away so better to switch to Rotadent or another soft electric brush.
It’s tough to say without examining you. First off you want to make sure you’re using the proper brushing movements and not placing too much pressure on the gums. It’s important to clean the gumline and brush the gums, but repeated back and forth brushing on the gumline may cause some damage. Electric toothbrushes are great and many of the new ones can tell you if you’re using too much pressure when brushing. However, you can achieve optimal cleaning with a regular manual toothbrush.

Thank you and have a great day!
I have some issues with what you were told. First, our main concern about patients brushing too hard with a stiff brush, is the potential to wear away some of the thinner enamel that exists near the gum line. The gum line does not usually recede as a result of scrubbing or brushing too vigorously. Gum recession is usually more related to either gum disease or occlusal trauma from an uneven bite. With regards to the electric brush, I strongly recommend them to people with manual dexterity issues. But the manual brush can accomplish the same affects as the electric brush if used properly. You should always use a brush with soft bristles, and gently brush both the teeth and the gums where the teeth emerge from.
Gum recession can be a very slow process that is not very noticeable. It is not uncommon for a new exam to bring up an issue that has been extremely slow growing (and therefore not a alerted) during previous exams. However, brushing too hard is a very common issue...that I suffer from myself!! An electric toothbrush can give you that firm feel, as well as alerting you when you are brushing to hard. I also recommend brushing with your non-dominant hand, or just holding the very end of the toothbrush. A toothbrush should be extra soft, or soft at the most. The most important thing is being aware of your tendency to brush too hard, and being careful in the future.
Hello! Yes, an electric brush can help if it has a pressure sensor. There are brushes that will send a message when you brush too hard so that you can relieve the pressure you are putting against your teeth. Why your dentist did not tell you about the recession is anybody's guess. Some doctors don't worry about it until there is erosion of the root surface and some are more proactive. It would be a good idea to have your bite checked as well because and interference during chewing can cause trauma which leads to gum recession. Hope this helps!!
Gum recession can be caused by tooth grinding, using a hard or medium brush (only use soft or extra soft), or too much paste. Electric brushes can be very good.
Yes an electric toothbrush is preferred as they do have soft bristles, however you could still wear your teeth if you are aggressive with it. Be gentle and let the toothbrush do what its meant to do. Keep in mind that sometimes wear at gumline could also indicate malocclusion (bite disorder) or clenching/grinding and you may want to discuss that with your dentist as well.
It could be that you previous Dentist did not notice or your new Dentist is Over Zealous. Could be both, or a new finding. It it aways best to brush softly. Electric tooth brushes can cause just as much damage if used too hard. The key is to hold the Brush softly and apply small pressure. It is helpful to hold the brush with your thumb and index finger only and not your whole hand.  
We never know what one dentist will notice versus another dentist, but gum recession can be caused by many factors, one of which is over brushing. Using a hard toothbrush or scrubbing extra hard with any toothbrush can cause gum recession- of that there is no doubt. But some people have recession as an age-related problem, and others have it from a grinding and clenching problem. We can't do much about aging, but over brushing and clenching can be addressed.

As the gums recede, the root is exposed. There is no hard enamel on the root; in fact, it is much softer. Extra vigorous brushing over the root will actually wear away the exposed root and create a ditching effect, which itself can contribute to more recession. Yay.

So always use a soft toothbrush and start your brushing at the gum line and work away from it. Don't brush up and down or use the toothbrush like a scrubbing brush. More is not better- sometimes more is just more- and it will cause a problem.

If scrubbing and over brushing are not the problem, then investigate a clenching and grinding problem. Perhaps you might benefit from a night guard to prevent the problem when you are sleeping.

Also be aware that sometimes you may have had recession for a long time but it is stable. Perhaps the previous dentist noticed that and did not record any changes, so there may not have been a good reason to address it with you. A new dentist, not knowing your history, may be going only.
There can be recent abrasion to teeth if switching toothbrushes is too hard, but many abrasions look similar to erosion or abfractions that grooves at the gumline as well. One dentist may see it as your normal and it has not changed for some time, but a new exam will want to cover all concerns and then monitor. It is good to be aware of it and watch with the supervision of your dentist.
It depends. It could be from brushing or it could be from your bite-- both can create notches at the gum line. Not all dentists are educated equally. If the notches are from brushing-- then the electric tooth brush can help prevent it from getting worse. Sometimes an option is gum grafts to cover up the notches-- hard to diagnose without seeing what is going on clinically
Get a "SOFT" bristle brush first off. The enamel stops and the dentin begins at the gumline. Dentin is softer than enamel. Sounds like you may be brushing too hard but don't discourage yourself from brushing. along with flossing its the best thing for you. Keep your teeth.
Dentist do vary; some are more focused on decay, others the gums still others, the overall bite/lesions. We try to catch everything. We are human. I have seen excellent results from plaque build-up with electric toothbrushes.

I can not tell you why your Dentist didn’t mention anything, but there are few reasons for loosing tooth structure at the gym line; brushing hard or Abrasion and a process called Abfraction. Abfraction is due to grinding or any stress or habit related excessive pressure on the teeth. I always use this example if you try to break a branch you can see splints breaking and fly off of it in the highest stress point: in the middle. The same things happens a to your teeth at the gum level. Although I do not like to prescribe anything unnecessary for my patient in either case I recommend Prevident 5000 which is a prescription fluoride tooth paste.
To avoid further damage you and your Dentist need to explore the reason behind your issue, resolve the problem (electronic tooth brush that automatically stop if excessive pressure is applied during brushing), a guard or what your dentist recommends. Remember you and your Dentist should be team working together.
Electric brushes are superior to manual brushes when properly used. Make sure you are using soft bristled brushes whether they are manual or electric
The brushing too hard signs might not have been visible then. Also an electric toothbrush helps because it will stop rotating if you put a lot of pressure.
Mechanical wear on the gum line is a common problem seen by dentists. Many patients do not have the proper brushing technique or are unaware of how hard they are brushing. I believe electric toothbrush will be better as the forces are more controlled. However, i would still recommend using a soft bristle if your gums are currently wearing. Also, why your 1st dentist failed to recognize it might be due to several factors but mechanical damage can manifest abruptly at times. He might have not seen the trend, but you may have exhibited the effects by the time you went to the other dentist and by then it might have been apparent.
If used properly electric tooth brushes do a better job and are less damaging to gum tissues. Be sure to use only soft bristle heads light pressure, fingers not fist grip and gently move the toothbrush along allowing enough time to do the work it was designed to do. Be sure to cover all surfaces of the teeth even the interface between tooth and gum.
It's much easier to visualize proper methods of brushing by watching a video as instructional then it is to explain in written word. A rolling motion down from the top up from the bottom is the easiest way to describe it but it's easier to visualize it. Always use a soft brush and remember throwing this is better then thinking a harder brush means you'll get the teeth cleaner. Your dentist is describing abrasion which is overzealous brushing and usually in association with the wrong direction of brushing as in a sewing motion front to back which misses many areas between the teeth. Your gingival tissue cannot stand up 2 years of this excessive pressure.
Brusing too hard is definitely a common problem. Amazingly enough grinding your teeth is often the cause of those ditched out areas at the gumline which if we brush too hard or with too hard a brush can make them worse/deeper. Google the term "abfraction" for an explanation. Although an electric toothbrush is more efficient a t cleaning teeth if used INCORRECTLY such as applying too much pressure while brushing can be very harmful. Unfortunately MOST electric toothbrushes have too hard of nylon bristles which are not kind to teeth
I don't know anything about your relation with your previous dentist. Don't brush hard, use some electric toothbrush that has pressure warning during brushing.
The electric tooth brush is usually better than conventional, if used correctly. However if correctly used, the manual tooth brush shall be equally effective as well with appropriate brushing techniques.
Regarding the wear on teeth and gum receding, there are multiple reasons including tooth brushing heavily, hard bristle brushing, occlusion problems, bite related issues, thin gum tissues, positioning of teeth in the arch, crowding and more. Your treating dentist shall evaluate and give you more appropriate reasoning for the situation you may have.
These problems are not from brushing. You are flexing your teeth and receding your gums. It is biomechanics. Brushes, electric or not, are all relative soft.
Yes it is a better option, safety built in so if push too much it will signal back at you in one way or another

And remember it's not how hard and how fast you brush... But rather the quality of your brushing and how long as well as how frequent
I do prefer electric brushes for various reasons, but with either an electric or manual brush, it is important to use one with soft bristles. You do not have to use a lot of hard force with brushing. Also, do not use a side-to-side motion. Either brush up and down or use small circles and make sure you are brushing all of your teeth and brush for at least 2 minutes.
Your dentist probably noticed abrasions on the facial surfaces of your teeth (cut on the enamel at the gum line). This maybe due to brushing too hard using a medium or hard bristle toothbrush. Or you may be grinding your teeth at night. Wearing a night guard will help to avoid more damage to your teeth. Use the electric toothbrush gently and don't forget to floss.
The best bet is to buy something like an Electric Oral B toothbrush that tells you if you're pushing too hard. Also keep to a soft brush. Hope it helps!