What really happens when you don’t brush your teeth
You’ve likely been told once or twice that it’s important for you to regularly brush your teeth and to brush them a couple of times each day. It’s not just about hygiene, routinely brushing your teeth can help protect your overall health too. There are a number of conditions that can go along with not brushing your teeth — it’s not just cavities you’re risking.
While it can be tempting to skip a brushing session here and there — you’re too tired, you forgot and didn’t remember until the last second, and others — once you see what can happen to you when you don’t brush your teeth, you’re likely to skip brushings much less frequently.
Periodontal disease and bone loss
You might not have ever considered it, but in addition to cavities, you can actually get more serious periodontal disease and even bone loss from not brushing your teeth. According to Dr. Rajan Sharma, a certified root canal specialist and founder of Eon Clinics, “Bacteria produce some enzymes that really start eating your bone and as you develop periodontal disease, then cause becomes effect. Now the bone is being eaten up, there’s more room for bacteria to grow, so the cause is becoming effect and effect is becoming cause and the cycle starts for further bone loss.”
The infections that cause periodontal disease can even require surgery to address the issues if they’re super-severe. So not worth it.
Diabetes is a serious, chronic condition that plagues all too many people, children and adults alike. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, there seems to be an association between periodontitis (otherwise known as inflammation/infection of the gums) and diabetes.
This research doesn’t mean that one condition causes the other, but it seems that those who suffer from periodontitis (which is often a result of poor oral hygiene) are more likely to also have — or get — diabetes. Those can both be extremely serious conditions, especially if left untreated, so if brushing your teeth can help protect you against one or both of them, it just might be worth it.
Wait, what? There’s a correlation between not brushing your teeth and heart disease? It’s true! “The bacteria that is retained in your mouth when you fail to brush gets into your blood stream and can affect your natural body processes, such as your body’s natural ability to fight infectious diseases,” Dr. Brent Rusnak, a dentist and the founder of River Run Dental, said. “Poor oral health can result in heart disease, stroke, and even Alzheimer’s disease.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the number one cause of death in American women and Alzheimer’s disease is number five. Preventing these conditions — rather than waiting to simply treat them — can go a long way in preserving health and saving lives.
“When you do not brush your teeth, you are creating an environment for plaque and decay to thrive in your mouth,” said dentist Dr. Glenn LeSueur. “Just think about everything you ate today. Every time you eat, remnants of that food stick to your teeth. If that is not brushed away, plaque will develop and, over time, may harden into calculus, which can then only be removed by a dental professional.”
All of those built up food remnants can make your breath smell, well, a little less than sweet. Brushing your teeth can help you avoid those awkward, embarrassing “Do you think they can tell my breath stinks?” moments, which are so worth avoiding.
Before you end up with full-blown periodontal disease, you often first get something called gingivitis. As Dr. Nirav Shah, a California-based dentist told me, gingivitis is the “initial inflammation, swelling, and bleeding of the gums.”
It’s important to take care of your gums, teeth, and soft tissues of the mouth before it gets to this point, of course, but it’s also — and maybe even more — important to do what you can once you start to get those telltale gingivitis signs to alleviate the problem and make sure it doesn’t progress to something much worse that’ll be more painful and difficult to treat.
I don’t know about you, but I had no idea that not brushing your teeth could actually lead to premature birth. “Gum disease has been proven to result in premature birth and low birth weight,” Shah said.
If you skip your routine teeth brushing often enough, it could actually negatively affect your baby, should you become pregnant. If you have gum disease, you might end up giving birth early, meaning your baby won’t be as grown and developed as they should be, which, in turn, can lead to a whole host of other problems. You eat better, sleep more, and generally take better care of yourself while pregnant, but making sure to brush your teeth before and during your pregnancy is something that you shouldn’t overlook.