Most of us are taught to brush our teeth every night when we’re kids. Most of us also keep that habit as we become adults, dutifully brushing away twice per day and adding some flossing to keep our pearly whites, well, pearly white.
But what happens if you don’t brush your teeth? Surely it won’t matter that much if you go a week without your toothbrush on a camping trip, right?
Wrong. In fact, not brushing your teeth is one of the worst things you can do for your mouth, your smile, and your breath! Don’t believe us?
Let’s take a closer look at the effects of skipping your tooth brushing routine. You’ll quickly see that those dramatic pictures of rotting teeth at the dentist’s office aren’t over exaggerated.
What Can Happen If I Don’t Brush My Teeth?
A lot. In fact, not brushing your teeth can lead to a wide range of dental issues. They all begin with plaque buildup.
In short, plaque is a thin white film that builds up over time as bacteria collect on the surface of your teeth and start to reproduce by absorbing sugars and other food materials. Plaque can very quickly bind with sugar, such as the natural sugars found in fruits or the artificial sugars found in sweet treats, and immediately start producing acid.
That acid will then start to wear down the enamel of your teeth. Enamel is the durable and protective layer over the dentin of your teeth – once it’s gone, bacteria can fill in the gap, breaking down your tooth tissue and eventually forming a cavity.
Furthermore, plaque buildup can affect your gums. The acid produced by plaque will attack gum membranes throughout your mouth, leading to gum sensitivity or even bleeding gums.
Of course, left unchecked, this plaque attack will eventually lead to a whole host of more serious dental problems, including rotting teeth, gum disease, and more.
Once plaque builds up on the surface of your teeth, your teeth’s enamel will start to wear down.
This isn’t a temporary problem that can be fixed by a dentist. If your teeth’s enamel decays far enough, it’ll be gone forever. Your teeth will be more vulnerable to cavities and other dental issues for the rest of your life.
But while enamel cannot be replaced once it’s gone, it can be rebuilt or repaired if it is only damaged.
As mentioned, failing to brush your teeth can lead to plaque and bacterial build-up. Given enough time, this can lead to cavities.
When your tooth gets a cavity, it suffers a small spot of decay that can quickly grow over time. If a cavity isn’t filled in by a dentist quickly enough, the cavity might grow and eventually lead to a bacterial infection of your tooth's pulp or center. When this happens, you’re in for an uncomfortable trip to the dentist’s for a root canal. Ouch!
Occasionally, not brushing your teeth could lead to the buildup of actinomycosis, which is a bacteria specific to the tongue. This can, in turn, lead to gum line cavities.
Gum disease occurs when bacteria infect the tissue of your gums through small breaks or through the teeth themselves. Failing to brush your teeth, and especially the gumline (the area where your teeth meet your gums), can make gum disease much more likely.
Gum disease is super uncomfortable, leading to irritation and inflammation, bleeding gums, and even gum discoloration or tooth loss.
In the end, going long enough without brushing your teeth will almost certainly lead to tooth loss.
Cavities will gradually burrow deeper into your teeth, leading to infections of the pulp or tooth roots. When this occurs, your teeth will rot from the inside out and either eventually fall out or have to be removed by a dentist.
With all of the above in mind, it’s easy to see why dentists recommend brushing your teeth so much!
What Are the Benefits of Brushing My Teeth?
Just like there are consequences for not brushing your teeth, there are also lots of benefits for maintaining a great brushing habit.
Stimulates the Gums
For example, brushing your teeth along the gumline can stimulate the gums and lead to a host of extra advantages. When you stimulate your gums' tissue, you increase blood flow to that tissue, boosting the circulation of nutrient-rich blood to fight off gum disease and improve your gums' overall health.
If you stimulate your gums for long enough, their epithelium, or the outermost layer of gum tissue, will thicken and become even better at protecting the gums from bacterial infections.
Helps Bad Breath
Furthermore, brushing your teeth can significantly help with halitosis or bad breath. Bad breath is almost entirely caused by bacteria that build up inside your mouth. As they reproduce and consume food particles, the bacteria produce the foul, sulfurous odor we all associate with bad breath.
Brush your teeth regularly and there will be fewer of those bacteria to make the order in the first place. Add flossing and mouthwash to the mix and you’ll have minty fresh breath in no time.
It’s a good idea to brush your tongue, too. In fact, up to 85% of the bacteria that cause halitosis are located on the tongue. If you want fresh breath, don’t just brush your teeth!
Protects Enamel and Remineralizes Teeth
In the long term, brushing your teeth will protect their enamel, preventing the enamel layer from fully degrading and leaving your teeth vulnerable to further infections or damage.
The process of re-mineralizing the enamel of your teeth involves binding other minerals to the gaps or damage sites of the enamel layer. This strengthens the enamel over time and keeps your teeth healthy and strong for years to come.
Most recommended toothpastes use fluoride, which is great for re-mineralizing the teeth.
Above all else, brushing your teeth removes plaque from their surfaces, negating all of the negative side effects mentioned above. It’s simple – no plaque means no bacteria, which means no acid, which means no tooth or gum decay.
Is It OK To Only Brush Once Per Day?
Technically, if you have perfect brushing technique and use the right brushing products, you can get away with brushing once per day and not see any massive dental problems.
However, most dentists still recommend that you brush twice per day (once in the morning and once in the evening). Brushing twice per day gives your toothbrush more opportunities to scrape away the maximum amount of plaque and bacteria possible.
If you only brush once per day, any missed bacteria could lead to cavity formation or enamel decay. Furthermore, brushing once per day means that there will be 24 hours between brushing sessions.
That’s plenty of time for bacteria to build up, leading to plaque on the surfaces of your teeth and bad breath. Bottom line: it’s always better to brush twice per day if you can manage it.
Do I Have to Floss?
Absolutely, yes! There’s a reason your dentist constantly tells you to floss more often.
Even if you use a high-quality toothbrush, like an electric model, the bristles won’t be able to clean the spaces between your teeth and other hard-to-reach areas. Floss fills in the gaps (literally) and gets rid of plaque and bacteria between your teeth and in other spots.
It finishes the job started by your toothbrush and prevents tooth decay or cavity formation. Plus, flossing properly lets you dig down and scrape out pockets of bacteria or plaque at the very base of the gumline. In fact, flossing is key for preventing gum disease, alongside regularly brushing along the gumline.
Don’t brush twice per day and call it good there. You have to floss both of those times as well for your dental care routine to be complete.
Should I Use Mouthwash?
Just like floss, mouthwash is a key part of any complete dental hygiene routine. Oral rinses that contain antiseptics are super important for killing bacteria missed by your toothbrush and your floss, plus getting rid of excess bacteria on your tongue.
Not only can mouthwash finish off any bacteria that might still be sticking around after brushing and flossing, but it can also fight against bad breath and leave you with a minty aftertaste. It’s refreshing, effective, and even makes it harder for bacteria to form plaque after the fact thanks to its antiseptic properties.
Want to see an example? Supersmile’s Oral Rinse Mouthwash can effectively eliminate all odor causing bacteria and even inhibit plaque formation for hours after your first swish.
Ultimately, it’s never a good idea to skip brushing your teeth or other key dental hygiene practices, like flossing and using mouthwash. Your dentist can only do so much during your bi-annual visit to their office. It’s up to you to maintain top-tier dental hygiene the rest of the time.
Fortunately, you can avoid most of those dental issues just by brushing regularly and by using the right dental tools, like the Zina 45 Sonic Pulse Toothbrush. This electric model features a two minute timer, and ergonomic handle, and four specialized brushing routines to keep plaque guessing. Add a fluoride-filled toothpaste to your routine and plaque will be a thing of the past!
Need some more dental hygiene tools or tips? Check out the Supersmile blog for extra info!