A family brushing their teeth together

What happens when you don’t brush your teeth?

Our mouths and teeth are so important – they allow us to speak, laugh, show expressions and eat all kinds of foods, from crunchy to soft. But you only have one set of adult teeth and this is why it’s so important that you look after them. The best way to do this is with regular brushing and flossing, keeping up good oral hygiene so your teeth remain in good condition.[1] With this in mind, what would happen if we didn’t brush our teeth? Read on to find out.

What happens if you don’t brush your teeth?

We’re told from a young age that we must brush our teeth twice a day as it keeps them in top tip condition. But why do we have to complete this daily task? It’s so bacteria that can cause plaque, tartar, gum disease and more is removed from your mouth, keeping it healthy. Our bodies contain so much bacteria. Some of it is good and helps us to digest our food and fight infection, however, some of it is bad and may cause further problems if it isn’t controlled. Every time you eat a meal or a snack, saliva production increases and the bacteria in your mouth breaks down any sugar and food residue that is left on your teeth. However, this bacteria can cause numerous issues.[1]


The bacteria that is in your mouth after you’ve eaten something can eventually turn into plaque if it isn’t removed. Plaque is a clear sticky substance that can cause lots of issues with your teeth, including gum disease. It usually starts to grow around four to 12 hours after brushing your teeth, and this is why we’re told to brush twice a day. Plaque is a dentist’s nemesis and is present in plenty of adults and children. The bacteria present in plaque can attack the protective layer around your teeth called enamel. Once this enamel has worn away, it cannot be replaced naturally. Brushing and flossing are ways of removing all the bacteria and plaque that can build up on our teeth, preventing further damage.[2]


If plaque isn’t brushed away, it can begin to eat away at your teeth because it’s so acidic, and this can cause cavities, or holes, in your teeth. The only way to fix these is with fillings. Cavities can also be caused by eating too much sugar or too many acidic foods, such as citrus fruits and tomatoes, so be sure to brush your teeth while around an hour after eating these kinds of foods.[3]

Gum disease

Another condition that’s caused by a build-up of plaque is gingivitis, or gum disease. This affects lots of people all over the world, and some may not even know they have it. It’s an infection in the tissue surrounding your teeth, and symptoms include bleeding or swollen gums. If left untreated, your teeth can eventually fall out. All of the problems we’ve mentioned above can be solved by simply brushing your teeth regularly and using floss picks, even when you’re on the go.[4]

Can you brush your teeth too much?

Now we know what happens if you don’t brush your teeth, but is it possible to brush them too much? The answer is, yes. Over brushing can cause the enamel to wear away and this is also known as tooth abrasion. It can lead to sensitive teeth and receding gums. When brushing your teeth, you should stick to doing it just twice a day (up to three times maximum) and for up to two minutes at a time. You shouldn’t be too forceful either – hold your toothbrush loosely and make sure you’re not pushing right against the tooth but simply using a light circular motion.[5]


[1] https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-teeth-and-gums/how-to-keep-your-teeth-clean/

[2] https://www.gosh.nhs.uk/conditions-and-treatments/general-medical-conditions/tooth-plaque/

[3] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/tooth-decay/

[4] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/gum-disease/

[5] https://www.dentalhealth.org/sensitive-teeth

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