Another user mentioned that brushing teeth without toothpaste is dangerous because it's "likely to cause micro-scratches in the enamel of one's teeth". How true is the claim?

To be exact, let's assume that the mouth is "fully rinsed" with clean tap-water and the bristles of the toothbrush are "fully wet" with clean tap-water.

Is brushing teeth without toothpaste actually bad for the gums (and teeth / general oral health)?


1 Answer 1


My short answer is : Brushing your tooth without toothpaste will not cause a greater amount of micro-scratches than if you were to use toothpaste.

To begin, tooth paste, is a product most often made of abrasive substances that increases the scrubbing power of the toothbrush bristles. Some kinds of toothpaste can also accomplish other things, such as reducing dental sensitivity (potassium nitrate, Sensodyne®) or make teeth more resistant to caries and acidity (Fluoride).

In other words it is the physical movement of the bristles of the brush that removes plaque that accumulates on and between the teeth and gums.

Therefore, it is not the tooth paste that will make the greatest impact on your teeth and gums but the way you move your toothbrush on the surfaces of your teeth and gums.

If you brush too aggressively, you will at first cause the gums to recede and then will use prematurely the enamel on your teeth.

Here is a list of things to do to brush properly:

  • Brush your teeth by using the modified Bass (roll-brush) method. Keep your toothbrush at a 45º angle and make small circular movements, on a set of 2-3 teeth at a time. Avoid broad, horizontal, back-and-fourth movements, since they will irritate the gums. Once a set of teeth has been brushed, make one sweep from the gum to the teeth, to remove any debris stuck in between.
  • Don't put too much pressure, and use a soft or super-soft bristle toothbrush. If done correctly, the plaque and bio-film will be removed by the movement of the toothbrush bristles. Anything that is harder than what a soft bristle can remove is probably tarter (calcified plaque) which needs to get removed by a dentist or hygienist.
  • If you need to remove food stuck between teeth, use floss.

A more in-depth look into mechanical plaque control could be done, but it would be somewhat outside the scope of the original question.

One of my references: http://www.aapd.org/assets/1/25/Axelsson-03-S1.pdf

  • 1
    Btw do you work as a dentist?
    – Pacerier
    Jul 2, 2015 at 12:38
  • @Pacerier DMD Student. I'm not quite there yet.
    – enap_mwf
    Jul 2, 2015 at 13:11
  • @enap_mwf if you happen to have a diet extremely low in carbohydrates, let's say less than 20g/day, could you actually get by by just brushing properly without toothpaste and flossing daily?, without the need of potassium nitrate and/or fluoride?, what's your stance on this?. By the way, are you a DMD already? :) May 11, 2018 at 18:14
  • @AlfonsoPérez it depends on what other macronutrients you are getting if you decide to avoid carbs. Now, if I had to forgo either flossing or brushing, I would stop brushing, and keep flossing, since my tongue can’t make it between teeth. But otherwise I would still floss and brush, even if there is no toothpaste or other abrasive and cleaning product. And yes, I’m done my DMD!
    – enap_mwf
    May 19, 2018 at 19:47
  • Cool, in my personal case is in the context of a Ketogenic Diet. And what you said makes sense. And congrats! May 29, 2018 at 22:11

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