Yes, You Really Can Brush Your Teeth Too Much

by | Dec 6, 2023 | Oral Health, Oral Hygiene

Mizzou’s upcoming trip to the Cotton Bowl this year wasn’t the only football news we’ve been talking about in the office lately. There was also the viral story about legendary NFL tight end Shannon Sharpe’s oral hygiene routine.

Yes, really.

Talking on a recent Nightcap clip shared by Bleacher Report, Sharpe said that he brushes his teeth 7 to 10 times every day and goes through a tube of toothpaste every week. Sharpe later gave the details on Twitter/X:

Suffice it to say, that’s just too much. For anyone.

Brushing too much can be as damaging as not brushing enough. It can damage your gums, causing them to recede. Receded gums mean tooth sensitivity, as well as a higher risk of caries (tooth decay) and periodontal (gum) disease.

Brushing too much can also accelerate enamel erosion, and once enamel is gone, there’s no getting it back. Once your teeth have developed, you no longer have the cells needed to generate more enamel.

Have veneers? Overbrushing can damage them, too, especially if an overly abrasive toothpaste is used. The veneers can lose their shine and texture, even make them more vulnerable to staining. Worse, the abrasives can actually wear down the adhesive that bonds the veneers to your teeth.

Most popular toothpastes are quite abrasive. A little grit is helpful in breaking up the sticky biofilm (plaque) that forms on your teeth between brushings. But too much is a dangerous thing.

As we noted before, there’s a relative dentin abrasion scale (RDA) that’s used to measure how abrasive a toothpaste is. The lower the score, the less abrasive the product. While the American Dental Association says that any toothpaste with an RDA below 250 may be considered “safe,” the FDA sets its upper limit at 200.

Most popular whitening toothpastes are “highly abrasive,” with RDA scores between 100 and 150. A handful, including Crest Pro Health and Colgate Tartar Control, score even higher, putting them in the “harmful” range.

The least abrasive options are brushing with plain water or baking soda. Yes, this really is enough, since it’s the mechanical action of brushing that does most of the work, not toothpaste. What a good toothpaste can do is deliver natural antimicrobial compounds, probiotics, or even hydroxyapatite, the main mineral that tooth enamel is made from.

And two brushes a day – morning and night, using a soft bristled brush – are plenty.

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