From this dental hygienist’s viewpoint, the most crucial time to brush is before going to bed.
Why Brush Before Bed?
When you think of a typical day, picture all the meals, snacks and beverages you have consumed.
When bedtime comes around, there are a lot of food particles and bacteria that remain on and in between teeth.
Even with proper brushing and flossing, it is hard to remove 100% of bacteria from under the gums and on the surfaces of the teeth for most people.
Taking the four minutes to brush and floss before bed will save you, time, money and may even extend your life.
So I hear time is the # one reason people do not brush. Or they are tired and fall asleep.
What to do when you’re too exhausted to brush before bed to brush?
Keep a toothbrush in the drawer of your nightstand. You don’t need to use toothpaste; just do a quick, gently dry brush while you’re lying in bed. Removing the plaque and massaging the gums with a dry brush is better than nothing.
Most people still leave behind some bacteria when they brush their teeth, so the more times you brush, the greater the chances of cleaning away the bacteria from all the surfaces of your teeth.
Brushing before bed can help prevent cavities, gingivitis and gum disease as well as other systemic diseases on the body. If you go to bed without brushing, that means your teeth are covered in plaque and bacteria while you sleep weakening the enamel.
If you forget to brush your teeth altogether before bed, you’re allowing bacterial plaque to mature undisturbed overnight, which helps colonization of acid-producing bacteria.
Nighttime is also an important period of rest and recovery for your teeth when they will remineralize from the wear and tear of the day. Your saliva production decreases also, so it is not bathing your teeth while you sleep. If you breathe through your mouth at night, it causes dry mouth making your teeth even more vulnerable to cavities.
Saliva is the mouth’s natural defense against bacteria in the mouth because it has antibacterial properties, neutralizes the acid level in your mouth, and washes away food remnants.
All the food you eat during the day has the potential to feed with plaque and bacteria and create an acid that weakens the enamel and causes decay. So, brushing the food, plaque, and bacteria off your teeth before bed is a great way to reduce the chances of weakening the enamel while you sleep and contributing to cavities.
The best defense is regular brushing, and flossing especially, brushing right before bed. This literally removes any of the loose food particles bacteria find delicious. Without anything to eat, the bacteria have a harder time reproducing and cause much less of an impact on your teeth.
The human mouth has about 700 different strains of bacteria. Although most of them are harmless, Streptococcus mutans and Porphyromonas gingivalis, are the two that can cause health issues gum disease and cavities.
Brushing helps remove these bacteria and reduce their harmful effects. Plaque forms on the teeth. It is a colorless, sticky film that forms consists of bacteria and sugars. Because it is sticky, it stays on the teeth weakening the enamel until brushing removes it.
64 million Americans have periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is the 11th most prevalent disease globally. The World Health Organization says oral health is a key indicator of overall health, but questions around brushing have become topics of debate in the dental, medical, and online communities. The frequency of brushing, the best time to brush, and the products that effectively and safely fight plaque and decay.
Where most experts agree is that you need to brush your teeth regularly to maintain oral health.
Most dental professionals tell their patients to brush twice a day for two minutes using a soft-bristled toothbrush.
These recommendations are from the American Dental Association (ADA), the oldest and largest organization representing the dental profession.
Dental professionals also recommend replacing your toothbrush every three to four months — frayed bristles become less effective at removing food particles and plaque. The recommended technique for brushing is to place the brush at a 45-degree angle and in a circular motion.
Brushing too soon after eating foods with high acid levels can actually remove small particles of tooth enamel, causing further weakening of the teeth.
We recommend waiting at least 30 minutes to brush after eating these types of foods.
Brushing too vigorously has been linked to causing “toothbrush abrasion.” Over-brushing can wear down tooth enamel and cause receding along the gums. There has been much speculation on whether it is toothbrushing damages the teeth. Or if it is the tooth alignment causing the recession? However, toothbrushing may cause gingival abrasions in some individuals. Improper tooth alignment can also cause a recession. That topic for another day.
There is an ongoing debate online and dental communities are whether manual toothbrushes or electric toothbrushes are more effective in maintaining healthy teeth.
Studies have shown the effectiveness of electric toothbrushing versus manual toothbrushing. Overall, the study showed an 11 percent reduction of plaque after one month of using an electric toothbrush. That percentage increased to 21 percent after three months. The review concluded that powered toothbrushes were more effective than manual ones at removing plaque and decreasing gingivitis. Other studies show that power toothbrushes are 10 x more effective than manual brushes.
The user determines the effectiveness of any tool. If you know you are a fast brusher an electric toothbrush may be a better option for you. I am a Burst Ambassador, if you follow me you know it’s the brush I use and everyone in my family uses every day!
Dental professionals recommend using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste with fluoride. I am not as concerned about toothpaste and fluoride as I am about you physically removing the plaque, bacteria and massaging your gums to prevent disease.
Fluoride helps restore enamel that hasn’t decayed, according to the ADA. Although the ADA recommends brushing teeth with fluoride toothpaste, there are those who hold differing opinions regarding fluoride. I say it is a personal choice.
The fluoride found in toothpaste reduces the demineralization process, which is the first stage of tooth decay. However, children who ingest too much fluoride toothpaste can develop fluorosis, white or dark spots on the teeth. I have not seen this personally.
Natural toothpaste does not offer the same protection against decay as fluoridated toothpaste, however. Some studies suggest using coconut oil to create an effective toothpaste without using fluoride. Coconut fat consists of medium-chain triglycerides, specifically lauric acid, which is especially effective at killing Streptococcus mutans, the leading cause of tooth decay.
Keeping the pH of your mouth neutral will also help reduce decay. Water is usually at a 7.0 and it is good to help control the balance in the mouth.
Most people rinse and spit after brushing, this is not recommended for the best uptake of the protective properties provided by the fluoride in toothpaste. Rinsing washes away the fluoride, preventing the teeth from absorbing it. Dental professionals suggest not rinsing after brushing to allow the fluoride to remineralize the teeth. We also advise not eating or drinking until about 30 minutes after brushing. Brushing just before bedtime makes it easier to stick to that guideline.
Most medical and dental professionals agree that poor dental hygiene, diet, and pH can lead to periodontal disease, which could cause illnesses and infections that ultimately affect the heart.
A 2012 study by the American Heart Association concluded that poor dental health doesn’t cause heart disease, but that periodontal disease does increase risk.
Poor dental health increases the number of bacteria in the bloodstream, it increases the chance of bacterial infections
People with diabetes are more likely to develop the periodontal disease because diabetes lowers the body’s ability to fight off infections. Gum disease is more common in patients with diabetes.
Studies show that periodontal disease is linked to imbalances in blood sugar levels.
Research has also linked head and neck cancers, pneumonia, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s eating disorders, erectile dysfunction and immune system disorders to poor oral health.
Poor dental care and periodontal disease can also result in tooth loss.
If you don’t brush your teeth for one day or night, although it’s not ideal, nothing much is likely to happen…. Teeth are the hardest surface in the body they can take a lot of abuse. Unlike bones and tissue once they are broken or injured they can not heal themselves.
Longer-term more serious problems such as tooth decay, tooth loss, and gum disease will occur if you do not regularly brush your teeth. Your teeth are an early warning to things happening in your body. Seeing a dentist regularly will help you know if your mouth is healthy if you need to take further action.
So, why is brushing your teeth before bed important? The short answer to keep your teeth, your mouth and your body healthy.