Burlingame Dental Arts in Portland, OR
Burlingame Dental Arts in Portland, OR

What Would Happen if You Stopped Brushing?

added on: September 9, 2019

Unless you enjoy scheduling repeated visits to see your SW Portland dentist, brushing daily ranks as a pretty high priority if you want to help protect the long-term health of your teeth and gums. Or at least that’s what you’ve always been told.

If you’re like the majority of Americans, you probably don’t follow the American Dental Association’s recommendation on how long you should brush a day. The ADA recommends spending at least two minutes brushing once in the morning and again at night. However, despite that recommendation, studies have found that the average adult brushes for a total of one minute a day.

Now if you’re already only brushing for about a quarter of the amount of time recommended by dentists, how bad could things really get if you stopped brushing entirely? After all, the enamel that surrounds your teeth is one of the strongest and most resilient parts of your body. Surely with the exception of a few cavities it would keep your teeth in good enough condition, right?

Well let’s take a look at what would happen if you stopped brushing entirely.

The First Week

With your toothbrush in the trash, you start off the first week liberated from the constraints of feeling the pressure to spend time staring at yourself in the mirror while cleaning your teeth. You now have an extra minute a day to do with whatever you want. Perhaps you finally find time to write the next great American novel, click “like” on a few more Instagram photos or just spend a little more “me” time.

During the first few days you won’t notice anything different. Heck, there’s probably a time or two in recent months where you’ve forgotten to or didn’t have the time brush for one or more days, so not brushing for one or two days won’t seem like that big a deal. Of course, as the week goes on, subtle changes begin to occur.

For starters, all of the food particles that remained stuck between and to the surface of your teeth that would have normally been brushed away begin to decay. If you’ve ever walked by a dumpster during the hottest days of summer, you probably have a good idea about the type of smell decaying food starts to make.

By day four or so, your breath is going to start smelling less than its best. But that’s okay. You can always use those extra minutes you’ve been accumulating by not brushing to pick up some breath mints on your way to work or school. Problem solved.

With the real smell of your breath masked like a child on Halloween, you no longer need to worry about not brushing. While you might notice your teeth feeling a little gritty and things tasting just a little different, that’s something you’ll get used to in no time.

One week down.

The First Three Months

Three months have gone by and you don’t miss brushing one bit. You’ve now saved over 90 minutes by not brushing, and we’re sure you’ve made the most of the time. Even if you had to get a CostCo membership to make it easier to buy the bulk quantity of mints needed to keep your breath slightly tolerable to anyone who gets within arm’s reach, you at least have plenty to share should anyone else need a breath freshener after lunch.

By now, plaque has had plenty of time to fully build up on the surface of your teeth and along the gum line. A sticky biofilm made of harmful oral bacteria, plaque uses the sugars and protein we consume as fuel to produce a corrosive acid that slowly destroys tooth enamel.

Normally, the removal of plaque occurs daily when you brush. But after three months of having skipped brushing, plaque has had a chance to grow uninhibited. This could cause several notable results.

When plaque remains in place on the surface of your teeth it hardens into tartar, which appears as a yellowish discoloration on tooth enamel. Tartar also irritates your gum tissue, causing inflammation to develop. Inflammation is the root cause of early stage gum disease, commonly called gingivitis.

So after three months of not brushing, you can reasonable expect three things to have occurred: Your breath consistently stinks. Your teeth now appear more yellow than before. You’ve probably developed early stage gum disease. Not great.

Fortunately, each of these issues can be easily correct by visiting your SW Portland dentist for a checkup and cleaning, and by making a renewed commitment to brush daily. Unfortunately, you already threw away your toothbrush, so there’s no going back now.

6 Months to 1 Year

Congrats! You’ve gone an entire year without brushing. A true accomplishment. Gross for sure, but still something not many people can say they’ve ever successfully accomplished.

After a full year of not brushing, plaque has undoubtedly done some permanent damage to your teeth in the form of cavities. Your gingivitis has begun to progress into the far more destructive periodontitis, a late stage of gum disease, while your gums have started to recede from the base of your teeth.

So what can you expect? Well your gums probably appear red, swollen, and bleed easily after eating certain types of tough textured foods like steak, corn on the cob or chips. Receding gums have exposed the delicate roots of your teeth, which could cause you to experience sharp pains whenever you consume hot or cold foods and drinks. And depending on the severity of the cavities you’ve developed, eating in general could cause some serious discomfort.

At this point, the damage done to your teeth by cavities is permanent but still easily treatable with fillings. Early stage gum recession can be reversed by making a renewed commitment to brushing, but that’s off the table so the condition will only get more pronounced over time. Finally, if your gingivitis hasn’t yet progressed into periodontitis, it will soon. So something to look forward to there.

One year down and your oral health is in serious jeopardy of suffering permanent damage that will forever change how you enjoy life. But you’ve saved 365 minutes (over 6 hours!) of time you would have spent preventing these issues, so you’ve got that going for you.

1 Year and Beyond

After a year of not brushing, you’ve probably forgotten how at this point so there’s no turning back. So what can you expect? Nothing good.

Your gingivitis has now fully developed into periodontitis. This advanced stage of gum disease physically destroys the gum tissue and underlying bone structure that hold your teeth into position. When those support structure become weakened, your teeth start to move, shift and become unstable. Fortunately, you won’t have to deal with this problem forever as they will eventually fall out.

Shifting teeth make eating all but the softest of foods difficult, so expect your diet to change substantially. Unless you’re very careful about what you eat, a limited diet of soft foods can make you susceptible to malnutrition. This in turn presents a whole host of other problems we won’t go into here.

Once your teeth start falling out, you will require expensive dental care treatment like dentures to restore your smile. Dentures aren’t cheap, so it’s a good thing you’ve saved all that money on not having to buy toothpaste.

Other issue will also pop up, such as an increased risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, dementia and cancer, but we think you get the point by now. While brushing may often seem like a pain, the habit really does serve an invaluable purpose. So even if brushing doesn’t rank high on your to-do list, just remember the difference brushing and visiting your SW Portland dentist can make.

Posted In: Uncategorized