For most people, brushing their teeth is a way to keep cavities at bay—with the pleasant side effects of a brighter smile and fresh breath. But we’ve all occasionally skipped the act before hitting the sack, whether out of pure laziness or extreme exhaustion. So how bad is it, really?
The short answer: It doesn’t matter if you brush your teeth right before bed. The most important thing is that you’re brushing your teeth twice in a 24-hour period, says Kimberly Harms, D.D.S., a dentist and spokesperson for the American Dental Association.
Here’s what’s happening in your mouth: A film of plaque is constantly building up thanks to the bacteria that live there, and it takes about 24 hours to mature. (That fuzzy feeling in your mouth the morning after you forget to brush? It’s alive!)
The most important thing is that you’re brushing your teeth twice in a 24-hour period.
The bacteria produce acid throughout the day, and even more when you’re eating, which is why you want to get rid of the film at least twice per day—any less and the acid byproducts may eat into your enamel and cause cavities. The longer the film sits on your teeth and the more food the bacteria feed on, the more time you’ll spend cringing in the dentist’s chair later on.