Most people brush their teeth in order to ward off cavities, with the added bonus of getting rid of bad breath and whitening teeth. But brushing is important for reasons beyond fresh breath and shiny teeth. In fact, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends brushing those pearly whites twice a day. However, we’ve all been guilty of occasionally skipping that second brush because of how tired we are or because we’re just that lazy.  Have you ever wondered just how bad it is to skip brushing your teeth before you hit the sack? Surely it can’t be that bad… Think again!

Every time you have something to eat, the bacteria that naturally reside in your mouth feed on the food that remains in your mouth. The bacteria secretes waste after they have feasted, which is where the main issue comes in. This waste is highly acidic and breaks down tooth enamel, causing cavities and tooth decay. When you choose to go to bed without brushing your teeth, the plaque starts to harden and calcify to your teeth. Once this plaque has calcified, it’s impossible for you to remove by brushing with a toothbrush by flossing. It can only be removed once you visit a dentist for a teeth cleaning.

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. Dentists do recommend brushing when you wake up and before you go to sleep, but that’s really for the sake of forming a habit. If brushing your teeth is one of the last things you do before you get into bed, you’re bound to brush so that you can willingly fall asleep. As it turns out, brushing in the interim of after you finish dinner and before you head to bed is actually better than your teeth than bushing right before you head to bed. That’s because it gives the fluoride in your toothpaste more time to strengthen your teeth and build up their barrier to acid before you go to sleep. You should definitely wait a little while after you finish dinner to brush your teeth. Dinner is a time of peak acid exposure, which softens the surface layer of your enamel. If you brush right after dinner, it will remove the softened enamel and cause your teeth to erode. You should wait at least a half hour before going to brush your teeth and avoiding eating afterward or your teeth will continue to feed the bacteria and secrete acid.

If you’re really too tired to brush your teeth before getting into bed, there are some ways that will help you get away with it every once in a while. Keep a toothbrush in the drawer of your nightstand for a quick, but gentle dry brush before you fall asleep. Cover it with a snap-on cover to keep it sanitized. You can also keep a flossing stick in your nightstand. This will allow you to get rid of the pieces of food stuck in between your teeth and lessen your chance of plaque. Also, simply running your tongue over your teeth excessively will slowly break down the plaque. It’s not the most ideal solution, but it will do if you skip once in a blue moon.