Did you know that the time of day you brush your teeth can have a huge impact on your oral health? Brushing for a minimum of two minutes twice a day is important, but the advice to ‘brush last thing at night before you go to bed’ is even more so.
When talking about their oral care routines, this is one the area that many dental patients don’t always stick to; however ignoring it can seriously damage their teeth and gums.
Common Excuses For Not Brushing Teeth Before Going To Bed
‘I’ve already brushed my teeth twice today.’
‘I brushed my teeth before going to bed, but then got up again and had a snack because I couldn’t sleep.’
‘It was late and I didn’t want to disturb the household.’
‘I was too tired to brush my teeth.’
Why Is It So Important To Brush Before Bed?
OK, so we’ve heard the excuses and I’m sure many of you recognise the sentiments and are probably thinking ‘what’s the harm once in a while?’ Many of us have skipped brushing last thing at night and our teeth and gums survived without any noticeable side effects.
However, this is not something you want to make a habit of for two key reasons:
- The time you will be asleep for: UK adults on average sleep for 6.8 hours every night, although 7-9 hours is recommended.
- Reduced salvia production: While you sleep there are various bodily functions that decrease. One of these is the production of salvia; you body doesn’t produce as much, which is why you may wake up in the morning with a dry mouth.
This combination of less salvia for a long period of time creates the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive. Salvia is your natural defence against the bacteria that cause plaque (which in turn can lead to gum disease). Salvia has anti-bacterial properties that kills off the bacteria and also neutralises the acids in your mouth that bacteria love to feed off. Salvia coats your teeth and gums creating a protective barrier, and washes away food particles (and bacteria) when we swallow. Salvia is your friend!
Therefore if you go to bed having not brushed your teeth, bacteria can have hours of fun feeding off the sugars and acids present in your mouth while your natural defences are down.
A Note To Parents
Everyone knows the importance of encouraging young children to look after their teeth, and brushing teeth before bed is part of most families’ bedtime routine. But many children brush their teeth then jump into bed for a bedtime story with a glass of milk.
A milky drink at bedtime has long been seen as a way to help children get off to sleep, but it could be seriously damaging their teeth. Milk is an essential part of a growing child’s diet but it does contain natural sugars. Bacteria in our mouths do not discriminate between natural sugars and the artificial ones found in fizzy drinks, they all provide food for plaque causing bacteria.
So a milky drink before snuggling down for sleep is not a good idea for anyone. Instead, let your child have their milk before they brush their teeth, and then once those pearly whites are sparkling clean only allow a thirsty child to have water.
Brushing Teeth Thoroughly At Bedtime
My advice for everyone is to make that last brush at night really count. However tired you might be, this is a great opportunity to give your teeth and gums a thorough clean so you minimise the amount of bacteria and food particles in your mouth; as well as removing any plaque that has started to build up during the day.
This deep clean should include:
- Brushing all the surfaces of your teeth for at least two minutes,
- Flossing to remove food particles from between the teeth,
- Using interdental brushes a few times a week to remove plaque build up,
- Brushing your tongue to wash away bacteria from this area of your mouth,
- Using a GumSaver brush to remove bacteria hiding below the gum line.
Once you’ve done this, lights out and no midnight feasts!