Think of your tooth brush, floss, and mouth rinse as the good guys of oral health care. The bad guys are bacteria. “Bacteria thrive on food left on or in between teeth, and it grows at lightening speed,” says Lee Gause, DDS, of Smile Design Manhattan. “If you only brush once a day, plaque and bacteria build up in the mouth and lead to bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease.” Bad breath is just a minor misdemeanor compared to the real crime of what happens when you don’t brush your teeth twice a day.
What happens when you don’t brush your teeth? Picture millions of bacteria trespassing in between and on your teeth and gums. Whenever you eat foods or drinks with sugar in them, it leaves a sticky film of bacteria, called plaque. The bacteria in plaque creates acids that attack tooth enamel, and eventually the enamel breaks down causing a little hole in the tooth, called a cavity.
It doesn’t stop there. The bad guys of bacteria are a hardy bunch. “Brushing alone misses 75 percent of your mouth, leaving millions of germs behind,” says Dr. Gause. A three-step defense will protect your teeth and gums. “I recommend brushing, flossing, and swishing with an antiseptic mouth rinse like Listerine twice a day.” Flossing helps remove food particles but Dr. Gause says mouth rinse can help reach hard to reach areas and penetrate plaque to break down its structure.
Besides cavities, brushing your teeth just once a day to can lead to other serious offenses including gingivitis, the milder form of periodontal disease. It causes havoc on your gums, leaving them red and swollen, not to mention the bleeding that you may see when you spit during brushing. With good behavior (professional treatment and good oral health habits) it is reversible.
However, if you get lazy with your oral health care, brushing your teeth just once a day and canceling your dentist appointments, untreated gingivitis morphs into full blown periodontitis. Plaque can spread to below the gum line and irritate the gums, which leads to a chronic inflammatory response in your body that essentially turns on itself, leaving your teeth and gums victims of bone and tissue loss. As a result pockets are formed between the teeth and gums and become infected. As periodontitis progresses, pockets get deeper and more gum tissue and bone loss ensue and in some cases, in tooth loss results.
How often to brush your teeth, then? Stick with Dr. Gauses advice: “It can be tempting to only brush once a day, especially after a long day of work or a night out, but brushing, flossing, and rinsing should be a part of every morning and evening routine.”