Brushing our teeth too hard could be the cause of a surge in gum problems, experts warn 


Brushing our teeth too hard in bid to get a dazzling smile could be the cause of a surge in gum problems, experts warn

  • Experts say celebrities and marketing have made people more aware of their oral health and the look of their teeth 
  • Over vigorous brushing can lead to the wearing away of gums, causing painfully sensitive teeth and even the need for grafts 
  • Among adults aged 18 to 35 more than 80 per cent have unhealthily receding gums, a study found
  • However dentists stress that disease is the main cause of shrinking gums 

Brushing teeth too hard may be behind an epidemic of gum problems, experts are warning.

It is feared that the quest to look after our teeth and have the perfect smile is leading many adults to brush too vigorously.

This can lead to the wearing away of gums, causing painfully sensitive teeth and even the need for grafts.

Evidence suggests women, who think more about oral hygiene, are more likely to have shrinking gums – as are those who brush horizontally, back and forth, instead of up and down or using circular motions.

Among adults aged 18 to 35 more than 80 per cent have unhealthily receding gums, a study found. 

It is feared that the quest to look after our teeth and have the perfect smile is leading many adults to brush too vigorously. This can lead to the wearing away of gums, causing painfully sensitive teeth and even the need for grafts [Stock image]

However, dentists point out that disease is still the number one cause of the problem. 

This is usually caused by not brushing teeth enough, rather than brushing them too hard.

Ian Dunn, of the Council of the British Society of Periodontology, said: ‘Due to celebrities and marketing, people are much more aware of oral health and the desire for a nice smile. This can lead to people brushing too hard to get whiter teeth.’

Anyone aware their gums are receding should get them checked to prevent further damage, he added.

Shrinking gums in people without gum disease most often appear on the front of teeth – the side closest to the lips.

That may reflect brushing habits, as people tend to spend an average of 55 seconds brushing their teeth, and spend 90 per cent of that time on the outer surface.

In the worst cases, a minority of people with receding gums lose teeth, or need a gum graft, which can involve removing tissue from the roof of the mouth and attaching it surgically.

Shrinking gums are also unsightly and can lead to sensitive teeth.

A 2018 study led by Bristol Dental School looked at 349 young adults aged 18 to 35, attending routine dental appointments.

It found 83 per cent had gums receding beyond the level expected in that age group, having lost more than two millimetres (0.08 inches).

Researchers gave ‘traumatic tooth brushing’ one of the likely reasons, although evidence on this is mixed.

Dentists have stressed that disease - which is usually caused by not brushing enough - is still the number one cause of the shrinking gums [Stock image]

Dentists have stressed that disease – which is usually caused by not brushing enough – is still the number one cause of the shrinking gums [Stock image]

Experts suggest harm caused by over-brushing is most likely to cause gum shrinkage affecting the six upper teeth at the front of the mouth, and the six lower teeth beneath them.

Those at risk of suffering shrinking gums from over-brushing tend to have thin gum tissue and are missing the bony structure around their teeth which support the gum.

This can be missing naturally or have been pushed away in people with crowded teeth, or following some orthodontic procedures. 

Professor Damien Walmsley, from the British Dental Association, said: ‘There are many studies that have looked at power and manual toothbrushes, and included the wear of the brush, but none have provided clinical definitive answers to the problems of gingival recession.

‘The risk factors identified with tooth brushing include the duration of brushing, the force applied, how often the toothbrush is changed, ie checking on the splaying of the bristles, the bristle hardness and the tooth brushing technique.’

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