Go Easy on Your Toothbrush; Less is More
Too Much Pressure or Time Brushing Your Teeth Can Hurt
WebMD News Archive
June 20, 2003 -- Less may be more when it comes to brushing
your teeth. A new study shows that applying more than a light amount of
pressure to your teeth or brushing longer than two minutes doesn't make them
any cleaner and may increase the risk of oral health problems.
Experts say many people believe that the longer and harder you
brush your teeth, the better it is for your teeth. But the study shows there's
a limit to the amount of pressure your teeth can take, and beyond that extra
force or time doesn't do any further good.
Researcher Peter Heaseman, professor of periodontology at the
Newcastle University's School of Dental Sciences, says the goal of brushing
your teeth is to remove plaque, the sticky substance that can harden on teeth
and gums when bits of food are left in the mouth. Plaque buildup can cause
problems beyond just cavities, such as gum disease. But brushing too hard or
for too long can damage the protective enamel on your teeth or irritate your
gums and cause other oral health problems.
A Light Touch for Two Minutes
Researchers studied the brushing techniques and times of 12
volunteers who used electric toothbrushes during a four-week study. The
participants were taught how to use the oscillating toothbrush, which was
hooked up to a computer that took time and pressure measurements. Researchers
compared 16 combinations of various brushing times and pressures. Plaque levels
on the teeth were also recorded before and after brushing.
They found that plaque removal improved with longer brushing
time up to two minutes and with greater pressure up to 150 grams of pressure,
which is about the weight of an orange.
"Although we found that you have to brush your teeth
reasonably long and hard to get rid of the harmful plaque which causes dental
diseases, our research shows that once you go beyond a certain point, you
aren't being any more effective," says Heaseman, in a news release.
"You could be actually harming your teeth and gums."
Heaseman says the same results would also be expected if the
volunteers had used ordinary toothbrushes rather than the electronic
Researchers say the force necessary to brush your teeth is
actually quite light because the pressure is being applied to a very small
"If you are unsure how to go about brushing your teeth, the
best thing to do is to make an appointment with your dentist or dental
hygienist who will be able to train you in the correct techniques and will show
you approximately how much pressure you should be applying," says