We’ve all wondered it. Whether we’re feeling burned out at work, overwhelmed with studying, or just so exhausted from the day, scrimping on our nightly dental routine can become tempting. As tempting as this may be, neglecting your teeth at night can seriously jeopardise your oral health. Below are five night time habits that are a nightmare for our teeth.
1. Going to sleep without brushing your teeth
For most people, brushing your teeth twice daily is routine. But, whether out of pure laziness or extreme exhaustion, many of us have been guilty of skipping the act before going to sleep. So what really happens if you fall asleep without brushing your teeth?
Well, the absence of our antibacterial saliva while we sleep means we’re extra vulnerable to cavity-causing agents and gum disease at night. Plaque is the sticky bacterial film that coats our teeth, beginning as sugar particles and bacteria that accumulate in our mouth. This plaque begins to build up and calcify overnight, housing and feeding more harmful bacteria. This bacterium then penetrates the protective enamel of your teeth, attacking the more vulnerable layers underneath, leading to cavities and gingivitis (gum disease). If left untreated, cavities can lead to dental infections and, potentially, tooth loss.
Plaque can do more harm than causing cavities in the teeth, it can also cause discolouration, weaken the gums and lead to gingivitis – a form of gum disease. If plaque is left for too long to accumulate, it will eventually turn into tartar, also known as calculus. Forming along the gum line, bacteria present in plaque inflame and irritate the gums as tartar offers a porous area on your teeth for plaque to adhere to. Once plaque has hardened into tartar, it can only be removed by a dentist or hygienist during a professional cleaning. Similarly to plaque being the precursor to cavities, gingivitis is the precursor to periodontitis. Periodontitis is a severe bone infection spreads to the supporting bone around the teeth. Consequently, periodontal disease is the most common cause of tooth loss among adults.
All of this is, from discolouration and cavities to gum disease, for the most part is preventable through maintaining good oral hygiene and avoiding sugars. Dental experts suggest that even once-a-day brushing is already enough to keep bacteria and cavities at bay, providing the bad bacteria that has accumulated throughout the day has been cleansed.
So, while brushing our teeth both when we wake up and before we go to sleep is routine for many, brushing and flossing at night is actually more important.