Bad Habit To Break: Aggressive Brushing

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Some bad habits are hard to break, but when it comes to your smile—the sooner you can break them, the better. Smoking and neglecting to floss are some of the more offenders, but others like brushing too hard can go unnoticed. It’s estimated that two out of three people apply too much pressure when brushing, which actually can push back the gumline.

“As soon as the gums recede just one-eighth of an inch, the root—which is more prone to staining, sensitivity and cavities—becomes exposed,” says Atlanta cosmetic dentist Ronald E. Goldstein, DDS. Exposed roots can lead to sensitivity, which prompts many patients to brush and floss less because of the discomfort. As a result, plaque accumulates, contributing to cavities and further gum recession.

But how do you know if you’re brushing too hard? “When you brush your teeth, you should be able to hear the bristles moving,” says New York cosmetic dentist Irwin Smigel, DDS. “If you can’t, you’re brushing too hard.” Dr. Goldstein adds, “If you could lightly glide a soft-point brush over your teeth to remove the plaque, that would be ideal. The less trauma you cause to your gum tissue, the better.”

For teeth that have grooves as a result of aggressive brushing, bonding can help revitalize your smile. Quick and usually painless, bonding is ideal for minor recontouring such as smoothing out ridges. “If teeth have ridges caused by pressure, bonding can be used to smooth the tooth surface and improve the color,” Dr. Smigel says. A special light is used to harden and smooth the plastic material, creating a natural looking result.

When the gums have receded and the teeth begin to look long, periodontal gum grafts can restore your gumline so that your teeth line up properly. A small piece of healthy tissue is removed from the rood of your mouth, transplanted to the exposed root surface and stitched into place. A puttylike bandage may be applied, hardening over the surgical site to protect against bacteria, good and trauma. After surgery, it’s normal to experience mild discomfort, slight bleeding and some facial swelling, all of which should subside about five to seven days.