I often have parents asking me to talk frankly to their children about the importance of brushing their teeth, especially before going to bed at night. It is often times difficult to excite a sleepy child to brush his or her teeth when they are tired and all they want to do is go to sleep. However, it is not just our kids that need a reminder of the importance of brushing our teeth at night time. We sometimes get right ready to hop into bed and remember we haven’t brushed…and nothing sounds more un-fun than going back in the bathroom and taking the time to floss and brush. So just how bad is it to skip brushing for the night and just going to bed?
The discussion I have with kids in the office about plaque and the importance of brushing begins with the bacteria that all of us have living in our mouths. This bacteria is important as it helps in digestion and prevents other more potent forms of bacteria or yeast from growing out of control in our mouths. It takes up residence in our plaque which clings to our teeth and gums. However, just like any living organism, bacteria needs to eat. Bacteria feasts on the same foods we eat. Once it eats, it also needs to get rid of its waste. A moderate amount of what we find in plaque which sits on our teeth, tongue, and our gums is just that…bacteria poop. Reminding kids of this fact gives them a slightly stronger motivation to brush. It should also do the same for us adults.
This waste from bacteria is very acidic and immediately begins breaking down our enamel, leading to tooth decay. This waste is found in the plaque that builds up on teeth and gums. Brushing eliminates this plaque and rids our mouths of this bacterial waste. Additionally, our bodies see plaque as an infection, resulting in inflammation of the gums. Although inflammation is a healthy way of dealing with infection, it does cause damage to our healthy tissue that supports and holds our teeth in place.
None of this damage will happen overnight, but creating habits of not brushing before going to bed does have consequences. So we recommend taking the two minutes to run over to the sink and brush that plaque and bacterial poop away. Your significant other or teddy bear will thank you, and you will be grateful you did down the road in life.
Dr. David Felt, DDS