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Does Your Toothbrush Look Like This? Your Gums May Be Receding!

Posted By: Amanda Banks, RDH

Does Your Toothbrush Look Like This? Your Gums May Be Receding

Does Your Toothbrush Look Like This?  Your gums may be receding!

As soon as I see that a patient has gum recession, the first question I ask is whether or not their toothbrush looks like this (flared out like the picture), or like this (bristles still nice and straight).  If your toothbrush bristles become frayed and flared out after a while, you are brushing too aggressively which often leads to gum recession. If your toothbrush has soft bristles you are less likely to be causing permanent damage, but a hard bristle brush can cause recession quickly.

Recession – let’s talk about why it’s bad

A lot of people don’t notice their gum recession until it gets pretty bad and their teeth become sensitive, or until a dental professional points it out to them.  Most people develop more severe recession on their posterior teeth so it is not as noticeable to them. As your gums recede, more of your tooth is exposed. The problem (other than being concerned for your vanity), is that this root portion of your tooth that is now exposed is not strong and tough like the upper portion of your tooth.  The top of your tooth (we call it the “crown” portion of the tooth) is covered with enamel, which is the hardest substance in your body. The enamel can withstand a lot, though rough brushing will still harm it. The root of your tooth is not covered with enamel, but cementum. Cementum is not near as strong as enamel, and it will begin to wear away quickly if you continue that aggressive brushing on it.  The layer of cementum is very thin, and once you wear through it, your tooth will almost always become very sensitive, especially to cold. Many patients end up needing many small fillings to cover these sensitive areas to prevent further wearing down of the teeth.

Brushing too hard → Gum recession → Exposed roots → Worn down teeth and sensitivity problems → Fillings

Also, these worn down recession areas often like to trap plaque, and are more susceptible to cavities over time.  All that just from brushing too hard!

OKAY!  I get it!  So what should I do to prevent this?

First of all, only buy soft toothbrushes (if you have an electric brush, all-electric brush heads should be soft).  Often times when we say this patient will ask “but why do they sell medium and hard bristle brushes if they are bad for my teeth?”  The sad and simple answer is that people will buy them, and these companies want money more than they want you to have healthy teeth.  It is my opinion that hard bristle brushes should only be sold on the isle with the cleaning supplies (so that you can still buy them for scrubbing tile grout and such) and should have a warning on them that they aren’t good for your teeth.  But I digress.

Secondly, now that you have a nice soft brush, you need to make sure you are “brushing” your teeth, and not “scrubbing.”  Let’s review technique.

Bass Method Brushing (this has nothing to do with fish)


toothbrush angle Fayetteville Arkansas dentistryThe Bass method of brushing is what we are taught to teach you guys.  Start with your toothbrush bristles angled at about a 45 degree angle to your gums, and move your brush in very small back and forth motions (almost like you are trying to just vibrate your toothbrush).  Most plaque likes to accumulate at the gum line (where your teeth and gums meet), so you want to really focus that area. You gently hold the brush against the teeth and gums, you do not press down which will lead to your brush having that flared appearance.  Most of our patients have probably seen the Oral B electric brushes that we have for sale at the office. One of the awesome features of these is that if you push too hard while brushing the brush will actually let you know! It will glow red and slow down the spinning to try and prevent you from damaging your teeth.  We love these Oral B brushes for many reasons, but this is a big one, and we often recommend them for patients who need to break their bad scrubbing habits. Speaking of the electric brush, you use a different technique with an electric brush than what is described above. Since it does the brushing for you, you simply move it around slowly and let it brush one tooth at a time.

But the damage is already done… 🙁

If you already have sensitivity from gum recession, use sensitivity toothpaste.  That’s the easiest and cheapest option. If that doesn’t resolve the problem, talk to us, and we can recommend some other treatments that may help.

Visit Our Fayetteville, AR Dental Office

To learn more about the best oral hygiene practices for your smile, visit the professionals at Greenway Dental Care n Fayetteville dental office. If you would like to schedule an appointment, call or request an appointment online.