Too much with toothbrush can be bad for your teeth, dentists say

Southfield periodontist says dentists are seeing more people damage their gums by over-brushing

People may think they're doing a good thing by brushing their teeth regularly, but dentists warn people can cause serious damage to their gums if they overdo it or brush incorrectly.

Eric Gregory, 26, had to see a periodontist after he over-brushed his teeth.

"I think it's an easy temptation for a lot of people to just think that, you know, you're going to make your teeth cleaner if you're going brush them harder," said Gregory.

Local 4 Medical Expert Dr. Frank McGeorge said he found out about the problem because he was overdoing it when he brushed his own teeth.

Over-brushing is apparently a common problem.

Gregory has always taken good care of his teeth, but his dentist warned him about 10 years ago that he could have a problem because he was brushing his teeth too hard.

"It seemed kind of comical to me, I mean, I thought brushing my teeth is a good thing, more brushing is a better thing, so I would just brush more," said Gregory.

Gregory eventually did notice a problem.

"I started noticing that around these teeth here that the gums had receded some," said Gregory.

Gregory said his dentist was concerned about a few areas in his mouth and referred him to a periodontist for treatment. He saw Dr. Joseph Nemeth in Southfield.

Nemeth specializes in the treatment of gums and tissues around the teeth.

"Recession is really when the gum tissue moves away from the tooth," said Dr. Joseph Nemeth. "We're seeing a lot of recession cases, more than ever."

Nemeth said some recession is normal as people age, but it's not normal to have gums pull away from the teeth when you are young.

Family history, orthodontic work, infections and over-brushing, are common causes of severe or premature recession.

"Generally, the areas that we see the most recession in are the areas of the eye teeth or the cuspids, because those roots tend to be the most prominent and also because they're at the corner of the mouth they're hit the most vigorously," said Dr. Nemeth. "It can even reach the point and I've seen it where lower teeth, especially the thin teeth, can actually snap off because those teeth have been sawed in half by over-vigorous, over-frequent brushing."

Gregory's problem was severe.

"I noticed significantly more sensitivity to hot and cold things. When I would just drink a cold glass of water, I would feel it. If I'd drink coffee, I would feel it in my teeth and my gums," said Gregory.

It was recommended to Gregory that he have a type of graft surgery. The procedure worked and his gums have healed nicely.

The recommendation for proper brushing would be to brush up on the lower teeth and down on the upper teeth, two minutes is plenty of time to brush teeth and gently hold the brush.

"I'm not gripping it like a club. I'm holding it between my fingers. I'm using much more gentle circular strokes," said Gregory. "It's a good idea to make sure that you're brushing gently and carefully. Gums are much more important than you think they might be."

When choosing a toothbrush, generally soft or medium is more than adequate. Hard or firm brushes can cause more abrasion, and should only be used if a dentist suggests it. People should also check their brushes because if they're frayed at the ends that could mean they've used the brush for too long or their over-brushing with too much pressure.

As for electronic toothbrushes, they can be good. Local 4 Medical Expert Dr. Frank McGeorge said especially the ones with timers so that people can brush completely but without brushing for too long. He said to take care with the ones that have rotating heads because they can cause more abrasion if people press too hard.

For more information Dr. Nemeth, click here.

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