Toothpaste is supposed to keep your teeth clean and healthy, which is why dentists recommend brushing at least twice a day. In some cases, however, toothpaste can actually be the cause of oral health problems. Here's what you need to know about this issue and what you can to do protect your teeth and gums from long-lasting damage.

Toothpaste Is an Abrasive Agent

While the toothbrush does most of the work of scraping off bacteria, food particles, and other debris, toothpaste also contains abrasive agents that help in the process. While toothpaste isn't problematic in small doses, thing start going awry when you begin using too much of it or brushing too often.

That's because the abrasive agents in toothpaste can start wearing away the enamel. In addition to increasing your risk of developing cavities because the damage can provide bacteria with access to the inner parts of the tooth, it may also result in sensitivity.

This erosion effect can be amplified if you use toothpaste containing a whitening agent, because these products may have a high level of acidity. Although the acidic factor does a good job of removing stains, it can also soften enamel, causing you to brush away this protective layer each time you clean your teeth.

This isn't to say you should immediately stop using toothpaste. This product has many other benefits that warrant using it on a regular basis. For instance, toothpaste contains fluoride, which strengthens tooth enamel, and some have anesthetic agents that can reduce tooth sensitivity pain.

Instead, you should be smart about how you use toothpaste so that it promotes good oral health instead of harming it.

Tips for Using Toothpaste Effectively

As noted previously, people start experiencing toothpaste-related tooth damage when they overuse the product. The first issue is that they use too much toothpaste. If you read the packaging or listen to your dentist, you'll learn that you're only supposed to put a pea-sized amount on the brush. However, it's not unusual for people to put a full layer on the brush bristles, and sometimes two.

Some of the blame for this bad habit can be attributed to toothpaste commercials that show actors fill up their brushes with paste, which makes people think that's what they're supposed to do. But while this subtle psychological trick helps companies sell more toothpaste (since using three times as much means you run out three times as fast), it's not so great for your teeth.

So, the best thing you can do is immediately reduce the amount of toothpaste you're using, especially if it's a tooth whitening product. You'll still get your teeth clean, but you'll save money and decrease the amount of damage you're doing to the enamel.

Another thing you can do is avoid brushing your teeth too often. Some dentists recommend brushing after every meal. This may not be a problem if you only eat two or three times a day. If you eat five to six times a day, however, all that brushing can be overkill.

The purpose of brushing after meals is to remove leftover food particles and prevent stains from wine, coffee, and similar foods from setting in. However, you can typically get the same result by thoroughly rinsing your mouth with mouthwash or chewing gum. Thus, keep a small bottle of mouthwash in your bag or desk and use it to clean your teeth and gums instead of brushing.

Lastly, make sure you're using a soft-bristled brush. Toothbrushes can also contribute to tooth enamel erosion, especially if you're brushing too hard. A soft-bristled brush is much gentler on the teeth and gums but still gets the job done.

For more information about this issue or to make an appoint to have your teeth checked, contact a local dentist.