Back’n’forth, back’n’forth – scrubba’ scrubba’ scrubba! Get those teeth clean! Yes, get ‘em clean … but, if your child’s method of brushing more resembles a lumberjack sawing trees in half than it does a gentle massage, they might be in for a lifetime of sensitive teeth, bonding treatments and receding gums. With this in mind, we thought we’d offer our top five tips for avoiding enamel loss when brushing.

The best part is, even parents can benefit from these tips as well! In fact, one of the most prominent dental problems that we see at CrossKeys Dental is recession of gums in adults, which leads to difficulties with root cavities and tooth sensitivity. This is often directly related to brushing a technique that was developed as a child.
  1. Brushing too frequently: Taking to the toothbrush three times a day may be ideal, particularly if it is done after meals. More than that, though, and you or your child might end up doing more harm than good. Teenagers might have a particular desire to clean more frequently if they wear braces, but it’s really not necessary. If your teen snacks frequently, or uses sport beverages, encourage them to rinse their mouths with water afterwards instead of constantly brushing throughout the day. The same advice applies to those that drink coffee, juice, soda or other sugary drinks. Often, brushing twice a day is recommended (think the ADA's 2X2MIN campaign). A third brushing, after school as an example, is especially beneficial for those with a high or recent cavity risk. Ask your dentist at CrossKeys Dental if this applies to you or your child. 
  2. Brushing too vigorously: The number one self-inflicted cause of worn enamel is brushing too hard. In a race to get through the boredom of brushing their teeth, so they can dive into bed (or back to Minecraft...), many children pick up the bad habit of brushing with a back'n'forth saw-like motion. Does this sound like you too? Well, this habit likely started when you were a child. It also “sounds” effective, and if you’ve ever seen a character brush their teeth in a cartoon, or in the movies, that’s how it’s done – so you can’t blame ‘em, really. However, the continual friction this causes along the gumline wears away not only the enamel, but also gum tissue, and that’s not good. If you spy your youngsters brushing this way, correct the behavior by illustrating the correct way, which is to brush gently and in a circular motion, aiming the head of the toothbrush at a 45 degree angle toward the base of the gums. We like to teach children (and adults) to treat each tooth as an individual. This may help you stay on track in small, circular motions rather than taking brushing an entire quadrant at a time. And, most importantly, LIGHTEN UP! You don't have to grip it and rip it like you're teeing off at Oak Hill. Your job is to clean up a buildup of very soft material, which means you only have to gently grip the brush as you would when you hold a pencil. 
  3. Using an ill-fitting toothbrush: If your child is using a toothbrush with bristles just a hair shorter than the ones on their hairbrush, a change to a smaller one is probably in order. The toothbrush we use should always fit our mouths, and for the growing mouths of children, that brush size is going to change until they reach adulthood. Try out different sizes. Smaller is often better. And, if you’re at all uncertain, ask us the next time you’re in for a visit. We can help you make sure that the brush your child is using is one that fits just right. 
  4. Using a toothbrush with bristles that are too stiff: Just as the dimension of a toothbrush matters, so does the stiffness of the bristles. Bristles that are too firm can be damaging to enamel and gum tissue in much the same way as brushing too vigorously. This is why most dentists will recommend either soft or extra-soft bristles on a toothbrush because it’s the technique (see tip #2) that really matters not the force of the brushing, nor the firmness of the bristles. Again, if you’re not sure, ask us for advice specific to you or your child!
  5. An electric toothbrush may make a difference: It may seem counter-intuitive. How can something that moves the bristles so rapidly be more gentle? Think about the ability to treat each tooth as an individual as I mentioned above. These brushes are made to do the work, allowing you to move from tooth-to-tooth and surface-to-surface without using that learned "sawing" motion. Also, you don't have to break the bank to buy and maintain one of these brushes. The next time you visit CrossKeys Dental ask Dr. DuPre or Dr. Badali to give you a few suggestions.   Plus an electric toothbrush may be a great way for those with dexterity issues to brush more effectively without extra effort. 
Saving your enamel and gums from slowly “disappearing” from your teeth is often simple to avoid by changing some habits likely developed as a child.  Anyone can benefit from the above tips, but as a parent you can teach good habits that can help save your child a lifetime of dental problems.
CrossKeys Dental is located at 110 CrossKeys Office Park in Fairport. Dr. DuPre` and Dr. Badali provide comprehensive family dentistry and are always welcoming new patients. Visit us for more information. 
         © 2015 Patient Connect 365 - modified for CrossKeys Dental in Fairport, NY by Vince Badali, DDS