It is universally understood that you should go to sleep with clean teeth but we don’t always follow the rules. We all are probably guilty of forgetting to brush or of having a snack before bed without brushing.

Every time you have a meal, the bacteria that naturally resides in your mouth feasts on the food you eat. Just like every other living organism, these bacteria excrete waste after a meal. This waste is highly acidic and breaks down tooth enamel, causing cavities and root decay.

When you hit the bed without brushing, plaque starts to harden and calcify on your teeth. It gets worse with time because once plaque has calcified it is impossible to remove with your toothbrush or floss. (it then needs professional help from a qualified dentist). This plaque buildup leads to gum infection, bad breath bleeding and swollen gums.

The purpose of brushing is to refresh and turnover microbes on the surfaces of your teeth to prevent stagnant masses of unhealthy plaque from developing as well as deliver fluoride via toothpaste to strengthen teeth. Even after brushing, there are still reduced numbers of bacteria on the surfaces of your teeth.  From the minute you are done brushing, bacterial plaques begin to regrow and mature based on the available bacteria in the mouth and other factors.  If you forget to brush your teeth altogether before bed, you’re allowing bacterial plaques to mature undisturbed overnight, which favors colonization of acid producing bacteria.

Night time is also an important period of rest and recovery for your teeth when they will remineralize from the wear and tear of the day.  Disrupting this natural cycle with food is not good for your teeth.

Nursing bottle caries, or tooth decay in children in a very young age of even 1 to 2 years, can be caused by children sleeping with bottles. This is also called baby bottle tooth decay. It is caused when a child goes to bed with a bottle filled with milk or juice - anything except water. Breastfed infants who fall asleep while breast feeding are also at risk. So it’s the lack of brushing or cleaning the teeth at night that causes early caries in children.

The main oral hygiene instruction universally is “BRUSH YOUR TEETH TWICE DAILY.”

Remember dental treatment is not expensive but neglect is.