Good Hygiene, Bad Teeth?

Can you really have too much of a good thing when it comes to hygiene? Neglectful patient behavior can result in the deterioration and damage of teeth over time, which dentists are then called to correct. However, overapplication of healthy behaviors can also damage teeth, and dentists should be aware that self-inflicted damage can pop up even among health-conscious patients, so check in with your patients about these five habits:

1. Brushing too hard
Perhaps the best known among dentists, brushing too hard can abrade away the enamel as well as the plaque! Brushing too hard can irritate the gums as well, leading to a loss of seal between the gingiva and the tooth surface. Patients should be advised that weakening this seal can lead to inflammation and caries.

2. Brushing at the wrong time or too frequently.
Even if the patient doesn't brush too hard, brushing immediately after eating acidic foods may also do harm. A patient may believe they are being extra responsible by brushing after every meal, but depending on the patient's diet and teeth, this may accelerate the erosion of the enamel. Additionally, brushing too frequently runs the risk of having unsightly white spots appear on teeth from excessive fluoride.

3. Flossing too hard
As with brushing, flossing too hard can irritate gums, leading to inflammation and periodontitis. Consider reminding an overenthusiastic flosser that they need only loosen the biofilm between their teeth, and that excessive "scraping" will only damage their defenses against bacteria.

4. Home whitening
Another source of gingival irritation in otherwise healthy patients is home whitening kits. Many of these products can irritate and inflame the gingiva, increasing a patient's susceptibility to oral pathogens.

5. Abrasive snacking habits.

While snacking throughout the day already poses a dental danger, the kind of food patients choose also plays a role. Hard or abrasive foods (especially some health foods like kale chips) can abrade and inflame the gingiva, again increasing susceptibility to oral pathogens. Additionally, these abrasive foods can get lodged beneath the gingiva and pose a caries risk, as they are sheltered from normal brushing.

Desfosse, R. (2017). Don't Be Strung Up By Floss: How To Guide For Flossing. Retrieved 11 September 2017, from
Medina, J. (2017). Too Much of a Good Thing: Over-Flossing Your Teeth. Jesus Medina, Jr. DDS. Retrieved 11 September 2017, from
Mitchell, J. (2017). Gum Irritation: Four Self-Induced Causes | Colgate Oral Care. Retrieved 11 September 2017, from

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