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Go Easy on Your Toothbrush; Less is More

Too Much Pressure or Time Brushing Your Teeth Can Hurt

WebMD Health News

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 versions.

Researchers say the force necessary to brush your teeth is actually quite light because the pressure is being applied to a very small area.

"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 Heaseman.

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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