Have you ever thought to ask yourself how much you really know about brushing your teeth? The process seems simple enough, but dentists publish new findings in journals about best practices every month, begging the question: Did you learn the best way to maintain good oral hygiene as a child?

Each year many patients end up sitting in a dentist’s chair, shocked to learn that you can do too much of a good thing. In the last few years, dentists estimate that anywhere from 10 to 20% of the population has at some point self-inflicted tooth abrasion.

This relatively common occurrence results from over-brushing which damages the enamel and gum line. Patients who suffer tooth abrasion often suffer from sensitive teeth and deal with unhealthy or receding gums. Though some bleeding of the gum line around the teeth is common with extreme cleanings, typically experiencing this symptom indicates that one may be brushing too hard or incorrectly.

So the first thing they may not have told you in health class is this- Don’t overdo it.

It is also important to pay attention to the texture of the bristles on your brush. Medium and hard bristles can remove enamel and damage gums more easily than softer bristles.

The options exist to allow a customer to choose a brush that meets their needs. One size does not necessarily fit all when it comes to brushes, and needs change over time. Choose a brush that is comfortable and that gets the job done.

The goal of good brushing is not to just count to 30 while you hit each section with small circular rotations. When brushing, you are trying to remove plaque. Unfortunately, some places are harder to hit than others.

In order to maintain healthy gums and strong enamel, pick the right brush, brush regularly and brush thoroughly (not as hard as you can for as long as you can). It does not hurt to know how all of your personal dental care products work together.

Use the toothpaste right for you, and apply the proper amount of paste each time. The American Dental Association recently published a graphic showing the proper amount of toothpaste to use when brushing. For children under 3, an amount the size of a grain of rice is recommended. The ADA suggests everyone 3 and up should use a pea-sized amount.

When choosing a toothpaste, look for the ADA Seal to ensure that the product is recommended by professionals and consult your dentist if you ever feel like a product may be causing harm or an unwelcome change.

Toothpastes have the same basic ingredients, but there are very specific benefits in mind with some variations by the same brands. Some toothpastes contain more fluoride with the focus of preventing and fighting cavities.

Some toothpastes target gum disease, plaque build-up and gingivitis. Some pastes whiten and include polishing agents that remove more surface stains than standard toothpastes. There are some that contain compounds to reduce tooth sensitivity as well.

Just as there are as many variations on the target use of toothpaste, you may find as many different intended uses for mouthwash.

To review:

1. Don’t overdo it (thorough brushing wins over over-brushing).

2. Use a brush that is right for you.

3. Apply the correct of amount of the right kind of toothpaste.

4. Know how your products work together with one another.

5. Consult with your dentist.

Dr. David Redford, DDS is a dentist and blogger for www.universitydentalarts.com