You’re too tired, too lazy, too rushed or … you simply forgot to brush your teeth. We’ve all been there.
After all, the last time you visited your dentist, you had zero cavities, and you’d probably skipped brushing your teeth, what, maybe a dozen times during the six months between visits? We humans are so good at justifying bad habits!
Is it OK to skip a day of brushing your teeth? What happens if you don’t brush? First, let’s review why we brush our teeth.
Why Do We Brush Our Teeth?
How about this for a reason to brush your teeth right this minute: You have about 300 types of bacteria living in your mouth, which means you could have billions of microbes living in your mouth right now, attacking your teeth, according to UIC College of Dentistry. Makes you want to brush right now, doesn’t it?
When we eat food and drink beverages, we leave residue on our teeth. Even the healthiest of diets can leave behind acids and sugars that wear away the enamel on our teeth. The American Dental Association has recommended for years that children and adults brush their teeth twice a day, preferably in the morning and at night before going to bed.
But, did our ancestors brush their teeth? How’d humanity make it to the 20th century without the ADA’s recommendation?
The bristled toothbrush as we know it today was invented in the 1930s, according to the Library of Congress, but tooth cleaning tools existed for centuries before. Archeologists have found evidence that dates back as far as 3000 BC that shows ancient civilizations practiced good oral care. They used chew sticks made from twigs with frayed edges to clean their teeth. These chew twigs not only removed foods but also stimulated the production of saliva, which is an important natural defense to fighting tooth decay.
The benefits of regular tooth brushing are well-documented: It prevents tooth decay, gum disease, bad breath, and plaque buildup that leads to cavities. Additionally, tooth brushing removes stains and whitens teeth, especially when you use oral care products that contain natural tooth whitening minerals.
So, brushing your teeth does two important things when it’s done right: It removes harmful bacteria, acids and stains from your teeth. Also, when used with a remineralizing toothpaste, regular tooth brushing protects your teeth from a process called demineralization.
But the real question is … can we get away with skipping brushing our teeth, even just once in a while?
What Happens When You Don’t Brush
With billions of microbes and hundreds of types of bacteria living in your mouth, you can guess what one day without brushing can do for your teeth. The acids and sugars in your teeth start to form plaque, which is a sticky invisible film that coats your teeth and eats through the enamel.
Plaque causes cavities, gum disease (gingivitis), and periodontitis, which is a bone infection that leads to tooth loss. If you skip one tooth brushing, you won’t wake with a cavity the next day; however, you’ve allowed the plaque to gnaw at your enamel for 12 hours longer than it should have.
According to Healthline, if you don’t brush your teeth, here is what happens:
● Two days: Plaque can demineralize your teeth as quickly as within 2 days of not brushing.
● One week: The buildup of plaque leads to severe bad breath as the plaque continues to eat through the layers of your teeth.
● One year: Cavities, gum disease and even tooth loss can happen after prolonged periods of not brushing teeth.
Is It OK to Skip Brushing Your Teeth Every Once in a While?
We’re going to err on the side of caution and say no, it is not OK to skip a session of brushing your teeth. In fact, after digging into the research and experts’ advice, you might consider adding a good mouth rinse to your daily oral care practice.
Floss daily to remove food that gets stuck between your teeth. Rinse with a remineralizing mouthwash after every meal; if you don’t have access to mouthwash, then rinse with water for at least 30 seconds, pushing and pulling the water through your teeth. If you do this within about 30 minutes of eating, you’ll help to remove harmful bacteria and acids that foods and drinks leave behind.
Here’s another reason not to skip brushing your teeth: For many of us, it’s a slippery slope. Skip one night and you’re more likely to skip another night next week, and the next week, and so on.
Every bad habit started with a single bad decision.