Electric toothbrush and receding gum - Correlation?
January 19, 2017 11:51 PM   Subscribe

I'm a new user of an electric toothbrush and starting experience a localized spot of gum tenderness/sensitivity. As of two days ago, I have been informed that I have a receding gumline and exposed root on one tooth. This hasn't been a problem before. Could my use of an electric toothbrush be to blame?

Odd question, I know. And I'm expecting the same answers that my dentist provided (i.e. "It's hard to tell.") But I'm obsessing a little over the future of my teeth and how I need to take care of them to prevent further problems.

I have mediocre/average dentation: approximately four or five cavities from my late teenage tears when I didn't think brushing my teeth required too much time & a couple more in my early twenties when I neglected them for a period while I suffered from a crippling period of bad depression/anxiety. In the present day, I floss daily and brush twice a day. I have been told I have mild gingivitis, but it has improved. I was using a manual toothbrush with soft bristles, but bought myself an electric toothbrush for Christmas (and at my dental hygienist's recommendation). It's the Oral B Pro 1000, if that makes a difference. For the past few weeks a specific spot on my gumline has been tender, but I chalked it up to... something: a possible abrasion, food particle, maybe a forming cavity in the area? And then I was eating a piece of candy (yeah, super great for your teeth), and had a sharp pain in the area. Immediately thoughts of cavities came to mind, so off to the dentist I went. No cavity in site, but the root is becoming exposed in the area.

So what's the deal? My dentist was not particularly helpful in offering recommendations for my cleaning routine. He just recommended using Sensodyne. I already brush gently (or at least I think I do). Overall, I'm feeling gun shy about my electric toothbrush. Currently went back to using a manual toothbrush and trying to look up information, which hasn't been as fruitful as I would like.

Anyone have similar issues with electric toothbrushes? Or is it just a occurring from previous poor dental habits and not actually correlated to my new electric toothbrush use?
posted by Thirty7Degrees to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I have receding gum lines and gingivitis too, but if anything it's better since I started using an electric toothbrush. My dentist's advice was:
- use brushes for sensitive teeth
- gently put the toothbrush on the teeth and let it do its job
- don't press into the teeth
- use a toothpaste for sensitive gums (Elmex Sensitive and especially Parodontax, which is very disgusting but efficient)
- use GUM soft picks instead of floss

In my case, I've almost completely stopped bleeding when brushing my teeth with the electric toothbrush. However gently I used a manual toothbrush, I always bled.
posted by snakeling at 12:23 AM on January 20, 2017 [6 favorites]

Ditto what snakeling said.

My dentist said that receding gum lines can result from brushing too hard, she even recommended using your non-dominant hand if you just can't resist the urge to hulk your teeth to cleanliness.

I had issues with bleeding gums, and she said that its usually because you haven't been brushing enough. So for my horror, she just said, keep brushing them! minimum of minutes each session. Even if youre spitting blood it does clear out. Also, smoking made my gums worse (gums have been much happier since quitting)

She also was stoked re using an electric toothbrush, because its the equivalent of brushing your teeth six minutes a day (even if you only do 2min/morning 2min/evening) or something.

Also, i keep getting told to brush my teeth before breakfast. because of reasons. i dunno, but it makes everyone raise their eyebrows when i mention it. Well, i have been doing that for years, and when i go leave the house i usually just gargle with listerine or something, and haven't had any cavities to date.
posted by speakeasy at 2:53 AM on January 20, 2017

I have had a ton of cavities and root canals even with pretty good dental habits. Including a receding gum and bone loss (though no exposed root yet). My use of an electric toothbrush improved the situation - after a year of using one I had my first dental visit in at least a decade with no cavity appointment afterward.

You don't mention if you are using your electric toothbrush correctly - not brushing back and forth like a manual but going slowly around over every tooth the way they polish your teeth in the dentist's office. Are you?
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 4:56 AM on January 20, 2017

I had a similar problem. My periodontist suggested holding the electric toothbrush with just two or three fingers so I wouldn't/couldn't press so hard. That took care of it, for me.
posted by DrGail at 5:44 AM on January 20, 2017

My dentist does believe that electric toothbrushes make it easier to over brush, which can contribute to recession. However she also believes he benefits outweigh the risks so she doesn't recommend that I go back to manual. She says a light tough and no more than 3 seconds per area before moving on - which seems to be helping as I haven't had any sensitivity for a year or so.
posted by COD at 6:07 AM on January 20, 2017

My dentist describes proper use of an electric toothbrush as a "very slow feather." You move slowly, one pass inside, one outside, and one on top, and let it just touch your teeth with a literal brush against them, no pressing. I have lousy teeth and it has helped massage my gums and improve the gum recession.
posted by epanalepsis at 7:05 AM on January 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sometimes when gums are infected, they can puff up a little. Once the infection starts to clear, they then shrink and can recede. Is it possible that this has happened in your case? Receding gums are unfortunate but the damage may have been done by not cleaning properly before.

Nthing sensitive toothpaste and soft bristles.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 8:01 AM on January 20, 2017

There are number of things that can cause recession and damage by brush bristles is one of them. If the sensitivity you are experiencing is the result of the trauma to the gums (don't brush your gums, just brush your teeth, gently), it should disappear as the gums heal.
If your sensitivity is due to the exposed root surface (cold sensitivity is most common), sensodyne is a good solution.
I recommend sensodyne use the following way: since lots of toothpastes help clean your teeth, but only sensodyne type toothpastes, which are expensive, help sensitivity, use the sensodyne for the sensitivity not as a toothpaste. Take a small amount on the tip of your finger or on a swab and apply it to the exposed root surface after you've brushed before bedtime. don't rinse, just leave it there overnight, that way the active ingredients in the sensodyne will have the greatest effect for the longest period of time. Reassess after about a week of this, it should have greatly reduced your sensitivity. Re-do when necessary.
I've been recommending this for years with great (anecdotal) success.
posted by OHenryPacey at 8:42 AM on January 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

+1 you're doing it too hard. I had the same problem. Let the brush do the work. They even make some that have a little buzzer to tell you when you're pressing too hard.
posted by radicalawyer at 12:39 PM on January 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone for your answers and advice! I started to adapt some of your suggestions since I determined that I am definitely being unintentionally aggressive with my brushing after some self-reflection. I also saw a specialist today who told me the same thing... and that I don't need a root canal right now. I only have mild gum recession at this point; enough to allow exposure of the dentin tubules but not enough to warrant more serious interventions. I just need to be religious with my dental hygiene, gently brush and floss, and focus on preventing any further loss.

Also, the GUM soft picks? Amazing!
posted by Thirty7Degrees at 9:37 PM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

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