How Bad Is It to Not Brush Your Teeth Twice a Day? (Asking for a Friend)

Here’s what happens when you neglect your toothbrush.

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You feel yourself start to drift off in bed after watching a few too many episodes of Will & Grace (thanks, Netflix). Luckily, you’re already in your PJs, the dog has been fed, and your lunch for tomorrow has already been packed.

There’s just a little problem: You haven’t brushed your teeth yet. No biggie, right? After all, you have nobody to impress with fresh breath until tomorrow, so why brush now?

“Not brushing your teeth twice a day is definitely sin in my book,” says Jennifer Jablow, DDS, dentist in New York City. You might expect to hear that from a dentist, but here’s the twist: “The worst time not to brush your teeth is right before you go to bed.” (What?!)

Why Brushing Your Teeth at Night Is So Important

OK, you see the obvious benefits to brushing your teeth in the AM. Who wants to roll into work with stinky morning breath?

Brushing your teeth goes beyond avoiding offensive breath. The smell is actually just one of the symptoms of the bacteria buildup in your mouth. Your teeth contain this filmy substance known as plaque, according to the American Dental Association. Plaque contains bacteria that releases acids that wear down your tooth enamel.

Brushing twice a day minimizes the plaque buildup between your professional cleanings, but your nightly brush is especially crucial. “When you go to bed, [you have] less saliva to protect your mouth,” says Dr. Jablow. “You’re producing probably 50 to 90 percent less saliva flow, so the bacteria’s not washing away.”

During the day, you drink water (hopefully) and produce more saliva. This rinses away some food particles and bacteria, at least until you’re able to do a proper brushing at the end of the day. However, at night, your mouth gets pretty dry, and bacteria is able to sit on your teeth and multiply (hence the foul morning breath).

How Bad Is Not Brushing, Really?

Letting plaque build up on your teeth can lead to a slew of dental problems: bleeding, tooth pain, cavities, stained teeth, gingivitis, and over time, even loss of teeth. Almost all of these issues are preventable with good oral hygiene, as well as a healthy diet and plenty of water.

“My advice to everyone is to brush your teeth twice a day because you only have one set of teeth for your life,” says Dr. Jablow. “It will cost you a lot more in the long run [to fix or replace your teeth] than if you just committed to brushing your teeth twice a day.”

Already brush twice a day, but not so into flossing? Find out how bad it is to not floss daily.