Effects of not brushing your teeth at night: It can make you fall sick

The risks associated with poor dental hygiene goes far beyond a cosmetic issue and bad breath. General health and longevity can be affected as well.

Man brushing teeth with his child

Key takeaways:

  • Brushing twice a day (morning and night) is necessary for keeping your teeth and gums healthy. This is a daily routine that should start in early childhood.
  • Effects of not brushing your teeth at night include an increased risk of tooth decay, cavities, and gum diseases.
  • Not brushing regularly is also associated with health problems like dementia, pneumonia, and heart issues.

Brushing in the morning is usually not a problem for many people. After all, it’s a new day. Right? And it makes much more sense to start a new day all freshened up. But what happens when the day ends, and everybody comes back home exhausted from the day’s activity?

It is easy to skip the nightly routine of brushing. After skipping one night, it may become a lifelong habit of not brushing before bed. As tempting as not brushing at night might be, it can seriously jeopardize your oral and general health.

What happens when you don’t brush

The human mouth harbors over 700 different bacteria strains.1 This is unsettling when you try to paint the picture in your mind, but it is the reality.

These tiny colonies of microorganisms are invisible to the naked eye, but they are there in your oral cavity, growing in your gums and in between your teeth.

Most of the bacteria in the oral cavity are harmless; however, a few can cause harm to dental health. The two bacteria that commonly cause dental health problems are Porphyromonas gingivalis and Streptococcus mutans

Streptococcus mutans typically feed on starches and sugars in the mouth and, in return, produce acids that erode tooth enamel, making the tooth more susceptible to decay.

Porphyromonas gingivalis is more harmful but less common than Streptococcus mutans. This harmful bacteria is associated with periodontitis. Periodontitis is a severe gum disease that damages the gums and can destroy the bones that support the teeth.

When you don’t brush, food particles and debris build-up as “plaques” in the teeth; harmful bacteria like Streptococcus mutans and Porphyromonas gingivalis will also accumulate in the teeth and gums, causing significant damage to the oral cavity.

They ingest the food particles and sugary debris, and with time, they penetrate the tooth enamel, attacking the layers underneath, causing tooth cavities, decay, gum disease, and tooth loss. Ultimately, they create bad tastes and foul smells in the mouth.

Why you should brush before bed

Brushing before bed reduces the chances of bacteria acting on teeth and cums to cause tooth decay or diseases

You might be wondering why you must brush at night before hitting the bed. 

When you sleep, the brain signals the gland in the mouth that produces saliva to decrease production. This means that salivary production diminishes drastically during sleep.

While this is a welcome change (after all, it helps prevent drooling while sleeping), it also has its downside. The disadvantage of having less saliva while sleeping is that our mouth becomes more vulnerable to bacterial agents that cause tooth cavities, tooth decay, and gum diseases.

Saliva has a powerful antimicrobial defense system that directly and indirectly prevents the uncontrolled growth of bacteria. In the absence or reduced production of our powerful antimicrobial saliva, the teeth are left at the mercy of the cavity-causing agents.

Brushing once a day will go a long way toward keeping harmful bacteria at bay; however, it may not be sufficient, especially for people who eat a lot of sugary foods. Brushing at night is even more important than brushing when you wake up in the morning.

Health problems associated with not brushing regularly

Health experts have recommended that people brush their teeth twice a day. Not brushing at night before sleeping is poor oral hygiene, and not adhering to dental hygiene guidelines can cause harm to both dental health and overall health. Organs and systems of the body may be affected. 

Some health problems linked to poor oral hygiene include:


Studies have established that people with dementia usually suffer from tooth decay. But it doesn’t end there. Research also showed that dental decay could be associated with an increased risk for dementia.

The research was carried out to review a possible link between inflammatory dental conditions such as periodontal disease and brain inflammation that can lead to neurodegenerative diseases like dementia.

This study review showed a possible link between poor oral hygiene and dementia; however, it is inconclusive. 

Heart disease

Poor oral health is linked with heart-related issues

According to researchers, people who went to the dentist regularly were less likely to experience heart-related issues.

A 2019 study found that those who brushed their teeth three times daily were less likely to experience heart failure and atrial fibrillation. According to the study, more missing teeth were linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular problems such as atrial fibrillation.

This suggests that people who don’t brush twice a day have an increased risk of developing heart disease. 


People with diabetes have a higher risk of having dental problems like gum infections, tooth cavities, and infections of the bones the teeth are attached to. This is usually because of insufficient blood supply to these areas.

In turn, having gum disease can make it harder for your body to regulate blood glucose. Poor dental health increases inflammation and may increase the risk of developing insulin resistance and diabetes.

Diabetes is a condition marked by high glucose levels in the blood, and if you have it, it is important to take your dental health seriously.

When glucose levels in the saliva are high, it helps breed harmful bacteria, which combine with food debris to form the sticky film called plaque.


A study showed that good oral hygiene reduces mortality from aspiration. Aspiration is when you breathe foreign objects into your airways. Foreign objects could be food, stomach contents, or saliva-containing bacteria.

The available scientific report showed that oral health is the major risk factor for aspiration pneumonia in older adults. Aspiration pneumonia is caused by bacteria that normally reside in the nasal pharynx and oral cavity.

When someone mistakenly breathes in something (like food) via the airways instead of swallowing it into the esophagus, the germs from the substance may infect the airways, leading to aspiration pneumonia. Practicing good oral hygiene may save a life in this case.

Dental problems

Poor dental hygiene ultimately leads to dental problems. When plaques containing bacteria coat the teeth, they penetrate the enamel, attacking the vulnerable inner tooth layers. This leads to cavities.

If cavities are not treated, they can lead to dental infections and tooth loss.

Aside from causing cavities, plaque can also weaken the gums, leading to gingivitis, a form of gum disease in which the gums are inflamed, puffy, and prone to bleeding. Plaques can also lead to periodontitis, a severe infection that affects the bones that support the teeth. 

How long should you brush?

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the standard recommendation is for people to brush their teeth for two minutes twice a day using a brush that has soft bristles.

Also, in order to maintain healthy gums and teeth, you should:

  • Floss regularly
  • Avoid sweetened foods and drinks
  • Avoid smoking
  • Use toothpaste that contains fluoride
  • Replace your toothbrush with a new one every 4 months
  • Visit a dentist once a year for dental cleanings and exams.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Below are some frequently asked questions:

Is brushing at night important?

Yes, brushing at night before bed is important, as it helps ensure that you get rid of any left-over food, acid or bacteria that may have built up all through the day. It also helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease.

What are the alternatives to brushing teeth at night?

Dental health experts recommend brushing with tooth brush at night, but if that doesn't work for you, you can try alternatives like flossing, using a paper towel, swirling with mouthwash, oil-pulling or using a chewing stick.

Can I use mouthwash instead of brushing at night?

Yes, if you can't brush at night, you can use a mouthwash. It may not give exactly the same result as brushing. But, it is better than doing nothing.

What are the effects of not brushing your teeth at night?

Effects of not brushing at night include predisposing your oral cavity to the buildup of bacteria, tooth decay, cavities, and gum diseases. It also increases the risk of health conditions like pneumonia.