Skipping tooth brushing at night can be tempting if you’re already comfortable on the couch or in bed with Netflix, phone and glass of wine in hand. But having good regular dental habits is key in preventing tooth decay and gum disease. Our family dentist Dr Jasper Lee explains why.
The Australian Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste as the cornerstone of preventing tooth decay. However, there are many of us that only brush once a day, and only in the morning. This is a dental danger zone! Let me explain why!
Why is brushing at night more important?
Over the course of the day, the food we eat accumulates on the tooth surface and between the gums, providing an area for nasty bacteria to colonise and attach to. In the long term, poor removal of this colony can cause decay.
Not brushing at night increases the risk of decay because:
1. More fuel to the fire: at night, we’re typically tired and crave sweet and savoury foods. If you’re a late night snacker, that means you’re providing the nasty bacteria in your mouth lots of simple sugars and carbohydrates to digest into acid: all while you’re sleeping. Over the long term these acids weaken the enamel and rapidly spread through into the inner layers of the tooth to cause a cavity
2. Lower defences: at night time your defences are down. Saliva is the body’s way of removing bacteria through swallowing, provides a buffer to acids and contains many enzymes and immune cells that neutralise and protect against bacteria. When you’re asleep, you’re producing less saliva, so teeth are more prone to attack.
When we look anecdotally at those who only brush once a day, the prevalence of decay is higher in those that don’t brush at night time.
What should I do?
We recommend brushing after your last meal for the night.
For me, brushing my teeth is the start of my wind down procedure for the night, and I use a phone alarm as a reminder to get started (and to get some decent quality sleep too!)
If you’ve got a young family, maybe it’s something you can all do together and form a ritual together.
For younger adults and teenagers who might be night owls, it’s better to start the toothbrushing early in the evening rather than later to increase your hit rate.
Night time tooth brushing is best done with a soft toothbrush with a focus on gentle 45 degree angles at the gum line. More assertive up and down brush strokes can be done on the tops of teeth. All in all, brushing should happen for 2 minutes with a fluoride based toothpaste that should be spit without rinsing. Leaving some of the toothpaste will help the fluoride absorb into at risk areas, and cancels out some of the negative action of bacteria.
Your dental health partner
We’re here at Shepherds Hill Dental Centre as a prevention focused practice. We want our community to have lifelong smiles and the best way to maintain and protect that is through regular checkups and cleans. Our dental hygienists are experts at helping you improve your oral habits and have the right diagnostic and tools to help you succeed in reducing the risk of decay and gum disease. Contact Dr Jasper, Renee and Tharaka for a check up today.