What Happens When You Don’t Brush Your Teeth?

You may be thinking: skipping brushing your teeth once and a while can’t hurt, right?

If you forget to push your teeth once and a while, you shouldn’t see any major dental health issues. Though it’s best to not make it a habit. Brushing twice a day isn’t a random recommendation, regular brushing and flossing prevent plaque buildup and the risk of tooth decay.

Your dental health can lead to a variety of health issues that go beyond a toothache or cavity.

Dental Health Problems

Properly taking care of your teeth prevents plaque from building up. Plaque causes a variety of dental problems, and at its beginning stages is practically invisible to an untrained eye.


Plaque contains cavity-causing bacteria that can break through your tooth’s protective enamel.

If left untreated cavities can lead to dental infections and, in the worst-case scenario, tooth loss. The good news? Cavities can be avoided by frequent brushing and flossing.  


Plaque can damage the gums and contribute to gingivitis, a form of gum disease. Plaque contains microorganisms that irritate and inflame the gums. Gums will appear red, will be sensitive, and bleed more easily. Gingivitis can lead to receding gums, which can lead to tooth loss.


Gingivitis is a prelude to periodontitis, much as plaque is a precursor to cavities. This is a serious bone infection that affects the teeth-supporting bones. Periodontitis is a leading cause of tooth loss. 

How Long Does Plaque Take to Build?

There is a genetic aspect to dental health. It may be frustrating to see a friend who barely cares to brush get away with no cavities, while you follow a good brushing routine and have weaker enamel. 

While genetics takes a part in the health of your teeth, brushing is important for everyone. There is no doubt that brushing and flossing prevent plaque build-up, which prevents other dental issues from appearing.

Here is what would happen if you avoid good proper hygiene at different lengths:

One day without brushing:

Plaque starts out as a tacky material that can be easily be removed by a proper brushing routine, the longer we leave it on our teeth, the harder it gets to remove. Within 48 hours of plaque on your teeth, it starts to eat away at your dentin. Once plaque hardens it turns into tartar, which requires a professional scraping to remove.

One week without brushing:

After one week, your tooth enamel will continue to weaken. The plaque that has not been removed will create a good environment for bad breath. Your teeth will feel tacky, and not smooth like clean teeth would.

Without brushing your teeth for one week you will have a greater chance of developing cavities. There is also a good chance that the plaque will start to irritate your gums, causing pain and discomfort.

Continued poor brushing habits:

If you continue to avoid brushing your teeth or brush haphazardly, within a year you will likely see some serious dental problems. Tooth decay, gingivitis, tartar buildup are all things that you will have to deal with. 

Poor dental hygiene can also lead to other health issues within your body like infection or high blood pressure. 

Proper Oral Hygiene

People have different ideas on what constitutes proper dental hygiene. A good view to follow is the ADA’s recommendations. The American Dental Association offers some advice on how to properly care for your teeth on a daily basis:


Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride-containing toothpaste to prevent cavities. Brush for at least 2 minutes to ensure you’re getting rid of as much plaque as possible. 

Make sure that you don’t apply too much pressure as this can irritate your gums. 


Flossing should be done at least once a day. If flossing isn’t your thing, consider alternatives like water flossing. Flossing can be a habit that is hard to get into but makes a big difference in your dental health.

Visit Your Dentist

Make an appointment with your dentist. The general rule is to visit your dental office at least once every six months.

Some dentists may advise you to visit them more frequently. This is especially true if you have a history of cavities, have gum disease, or are at risk of developing gum disease.

Use Proper Equipement

Changing from a manual to an electric toothbrush can seriously help your dental hygiene. Electric toothbrushes encourage the proper length in brushing with their timed settings and are more effective in removing plaque. 

If you don’t want to invest in an electric toothbrush, make sure to use a soft bristle brush and brush in circular motions.

Have a Healthy Diet

Having a well-balanced diet. Dental decay can be reduced by eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and reducing high-sugar foods.

Dental Cleanings & Checkups

If you forget to brush your teeth every once in a while, don’t panic.

But remember that brushing your teeth at least twice daily, flossing once a day, and visiting your dentist at least twice a year, can be vital to your overall dental health.

Regular dental checkups will make sure that your teeth are healthy. Catching cavities and gum disease early means an easier treatment and healthier mouths. Some cavities don’t even need fillings if caught early enough!

Dental cleanings will help remove stubborn plaque and tarter. Professional teeth whitening is always an option if you’re looking for cosmetic changes.

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