Can you brush too hard? 

Yes you can.  Some adult patients, when they go to see their dentist at their regular six month check up, are sometimes surprised that they are informed they are brushing too hard.  Their family dentist will show them a place or multiple places where the gum tissue has started pulled away from their roots leaving their roots exposed.  This is called toothbrush abrasion.  Patients who have toothbrush abrasion like the feeling of brushing hard and they think they are getting their teeth really clean.  They may be doing more harm than good.

What is toothbrush abrasion?

  Toothbrush abrasion is when the patient uses a stiff hard bristled toothbrush and moves the toothbrush is a wrong way to brush their teeth.  A patient should always use a soft bristled brush.  A hard bristle brush will cause toothbrush abrasion by scratching or wearing the gum tissue around the roots away.  The patient usually states that they have sensitivity when they eat hot or cold foods and that is because the uncovered roots are sensitive to temperature change.  If the patient continues to brush this way, the root will continue to erode and a notch is created in the roots.  In some cases the notch is so deep it exposes the pulp.

How can I avoid toothbrush abrasion? 

First use a soft bristle brush and do not brush in a scrubbing back and forth motion.  Move your toothbrush in round circles or up and down.  This lessens the chance of damage to the gum tissue.

Can you get the gum tissue to cover the root again?

No.  Once the gum tissue has receded, it cannot be placed back to the original level.

How do you treat toothbrush abrasion? 

Treatment of toothbrush abrasion is done by the following.  1) Patient education – use a soft bristled brush and move the toothbrush in round circles or up and down when brushing.  You may also want to use an electric toothbrush that moves in round circles.  2)  Notches that have developed in the roots can be repaired by your family dentist.  3)  Sensitivity of the roots can be diminished by toothpastes like Sensodyne.  When using Sensodyne, apply the toothpaste on your finger and lay it on the roots that are exposed.  It may take up to a month for the root to become desensitized.

So be careful when you brush your teeth.  Toothbrush abrasion can be a real problem when you are older and can cost you a lot of money to fix.