Overbrushing can bring undesired effects. Get a refresher on the basics of proper oral hygiene.
Clara Isabel Borrero Gutiérrez, Dentist, practitioner at Coomeva Private Healthcare
When a dentist asks you how many times a day you brush your teeth, how do you usually respond? As children, we learn that it is essential to brush our teeth three times a day. As the years go by, however, these habits change: for some, this rule is not always followed carefully; while for others, brushing after eating any food turns into a necessity, exceeding the number of recommended times we should brush.
Dentist Clara Isabel Borrero reminds us that the objective of brushing your teeth is to remove any remaining food particles, “So, you can brush your teeth as often as five times a day if necessary, but the problem lies with the type of products we use and how much force we apply.” Keeping track of how well we brush is therefore critical. Some people even take between 3 to 4 minutes to brush. As Borrero affirms, “Going over your teeth once with your toothbrush is enough to clean the surface of your teeth properly. Brushing for too long or several times a day can wear down tooth enamel and cause tooth sensitivity, which in some cases can expose the dentine – the layer of tooth under our tooth enamel.”
The color of this layer of our tooth is different than that of the enamel. If the patient is trying to whiten their teeth, by overbrushing, they are just going to make them more yellow. “By overbrushing, you will not get the aesthetic affect you want to achieve,” Borrero adds, who recommends using a stopwatch to make sure you brush your teeth and tongue for one minute.
This does not an excuse to brush your teeth just once or twice a day, however: “Removing food particles from your mouth is necessary. If you don’t do this, you run the risk of developing gum problems, cavities or halitosis.”
Finding what works for you
It is also important to understand that the method you use to brush is just as important as the time you spend doing it. How we use a toothbrush is similar to how we use a pencil and is related to our motor skills. “People with greater motor skills are able to make better movements and can reach areas that are difficult to access in the mouth,” Borrero adds. This is why it is so important for patients to go to the dentist and ask to receive a consultation on proper brushing techniques. The dental professional will adjust the method to make sure it fits the skills and needs of each patient.”
As part of this process, what role does choosing the right toothbrush and toothpaste play? As the dentist explains, the size of the brush and how hard its bristles are, is only important when the patient is not able achieve proper oral hygiene.
The opposite is true for when we choose toothpaste. We are often overwhelmed by the selection of products, we are impatient, want immediate results, and we often choose toothpastes that are more complex. “There are toothpastes that advertise that they can whiten your teeth and provide you with long-lasting and fresh breath; but these often contain abrasive, chemical ingredients that cause tooth sensitivity in most patients. This is why your dentist should also help you choose the toothpaste that is right for you,” Borrero adds.
While there are certain guidelines to having proper oral hygiene, there is more than just one cause to having an oral disease. As Borrero states, “There are other factors to be aware of that you must manage in order to achieve good oral health such as diet, your environment, and hereditary factors.”
Before and after you brush
An essential part of brushing is to start by flossing first, and end with a mouthwash. As Borrero explains, “Floss is the best way to fight bacterial plaque and keep bad breath under control. By flossing regularly, your teeth and gums will be much healthier, as plaque is the primary cause of cavities and gum disease.”
“As for mouthwashes, there are a variety of products available on the market, each which has a specific use. Some are used to prevent cavities and there are others that used to protect the gums, control infections or reduce tooth sensitivity,” Borrero states.
Given this great variety, dentists should provide patients with recommendations on what type of mouthwash is right for their individual profile and needs.