When's the best time to brush your pearly whites?
June 12, 2007 12:14 PM   Subscribe

If you were only allowed to brush your teeth once per day, would it be better to brush them at night, or in the morning?

My friends and I have had this conversation many times. We all brush our teeth twice a day (morning and night), but there usually comes a time when you miss one or the other. So, which one is most beneficial to the health of your teeth?

I argue that it's better to brush at night, so you get all the junk off your teeth before you go to sleep. You might have bad breath in the morning, but that's better than giving sugar and plaque eight extra hours to work away on your enamel while you're sleeping.

So, what would be the pros and cons of each? We all know that brushing twice is optimal, but if you were only able to brush once a day, when would it be most advantageous, in regards to the health of your teeth?
posted by c:\awesome to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My assumption would be at night. During the day, you're flapping your jaw, drinking water, chewing gum, and moving your tounge, all of which help to clean things off of your teeth. At night, your mouth is much less active, which allows bacteria more time to grow without being mechanicalyl sloughed off.
posted by chrisamiller at 12:22 PM on June 12, 2007

Many years ago my orthodontist told me that it was most important to brush your teeth before going to sleep (I guess either for the night, or for a nap). Saliva production is down, and if you happen to sleep with your mouth gaping open, your teeth dry out and don't have that protective layer of saliva. Just the lack of movement of your lips and tongue while sleeping gives decay more of an opportunity to do its dirty work.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:23 PM on June 12, 2007

I doubt it matters. You're applying fluoride and brushing off food ever 24 hours. If brushing once per day increases the chance of getting a cavity 2x it wont matter when. Brushing at night is not going to magically make it 1.8x.

Its probably impossilbe to know. You'd need to run a large study asking people to only brush once per day and track their results versus a group that brushes twice per day. For years. Not very ethical.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:25 PM on June 12, 2007

I only brush my teeth and floss once per day, at night. Never had any problems.
posted by |n$eCur3 at 12:26 PM on June 12, 2007

err i mean one group brushing at night and the other in the morn.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:27 PM on June 12, 2007

Night - seconding what chrisamiller and Oriole Adams said. A dry mouth is tooth decay's best friend.

But please, floss, too. Preferably at night, according to my hygenist.
posted by odi.et.amo at 12:32 PM on June 12, 2007

I had this debate with my wife, who always brushes in the morning and sometimes not at night (I, the reverse). I went and asked my dentist and hygienist about it, and they both said unequivocally that night was most important.
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:51 PM on June 12, 2007

I just asked my dental hygienist about this and her response was that as long as you take time to clean each tooth of plaque with thorough brushing (five seconds per tooth, outside and inside with an electric spinny toothbrush) and flossing once a day, it doesn't matter when it is. Other quick brushes to get rid of food debris, bad breath, just feel fresher, etc. are fine of course, but she stressed that taking the time to do a complete cleaning once a day (whenever) was really the key to keeping the teeth healthy.

So I guess you just keep asking dental hygienists until you get an answer you like :)
posted by mikepop at 1:01 PM on June 12, 2007

Please, for the love of your peers' noses, brush that morning breath away. ;) Do whatever additional things you feel you must to keep your teeth healthy.
posted by iguanapolitico at 1:23 PM on June 12, 2007

If you snore, definitely at night, since your open mouth will dry up the saliva.

Droolers are probably safe either way.
posted by happyturtle at 1:43 PM on June 12, 2007

In the morning. Apparently I'm the only one that can't stomach the thought of leaving the house without brushing my teeth.
posted by pieoverdone at 1:59 PM on June 12, 2007

In the morning. Apparently I'm the only one that can't stomach the thought of leaving the house without brushing my teeth.

I can't either, and I fully admit that there have been nights when I got home late after going out and basically just collapsed into bed without stopping to clean my teeth.

However, I just feel like the nighttime cleaning probably is more important in the grand scheme of things, just because leaving food residue on your teeth all night just makes me think of cavities. Also, thinking about how gross morning breath is even after brushing & flossing at night ... that's all bacteria. And you *know* there's more in the morning if you hadn't brushed the night before, providing the bacteria with an all-you-can eat buffet of food grime.
posted by tastybrains at 2:27 PM on June 12, 2007

As someone who can only brush once a day (or risk degradation of enamel), I've found morning works best. The simple reason is that I remember to do it in the morning.
posted by ysabet at 2:48 PM on June 12, 2007

When I was in elementary school, the usual people came in and gave presentations about how important it was to brush your teeth. The only thing I remember was the emphasis on brushing before bedtime, because whoever it was giving the presentation went through this long story of all the stuff you eat during the day, and how it all continues to sit in your mouth during the night and do nasty things like cause cavities and make your breath smell bad, and that even if you brushed your teeth in the morning it was still not so good because of all the damage the food did to your teeth during the night.

Actually, it's one of the few memories I have of the younger grades. Whoever that presenter was probably deserves some props for making such an impression on at least one little kid to always brush his teeth before bedtime.
posted by chrominance at 3:22 PM on June 12, 2007

i don't think it matters so much as your genetic makeup. growing up, i brushed twice a day the suggested three minutes each brushing religiously and i was not allowed a lot of sugary food. i still ended up with a bunch of cavities. turns out my fam have a history of just being cavity-prone regardless of how vigilant we are with the cleaning. now i just brush once (in the morning) for about four minutes and i haven't seen any decrease in the health of my teeth.
posted by violetk at 7:07 PM on June 12, 2007

At night for the health of your choppers; in the morning for the sake of everyone else in your Zip code.
posted by rob511 at 9:33 PM on June 12, 2007

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