What Can Happen if You Are Neglecting Your Teeth?

If you choose not to look after your teeth properly in terms of a tooth-kind diet and oral hygiene, you are at high risk of oral diseases.

Neglecting your teeth will almost certainly catch up with you at some stage.  It is a very, very common regret of patients in middle and old-age who neglected to care for their teeth when younger.

The main cause of all the trouble?- Plaque.

Dental plaque is the white, sticky substance that builds up on the tooth surfaces throughout the day.  If you haven’t brushed your teeth in a few hours, you can see it by scraping a tooth with a fingernail.  Plaque is full of harmful bacteria that lead to decay and gum disease.


"Image showing consequences of neglecting your teeth"

Gum Disease and Tooth Decay: The Two Big Threats from Neglecting your Teeth

Gum disease and tooth decay are the two main dental problems, especially if you are neglecting your teeth.

Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss, where the gums are gradually stripped away from the teeth.  Gum disease is a preventable condition, but if left untreated it can lead to the loss of the bone that holds the teeth in place.  Plaque-bacteria causes gum disease.  Good oral hygiene to clear plaque, along with regular professional cleanings, is key to preventing the disease.  It can be hard for people to know they have gum disease until the problem has become severe.  Therefore regular dental check-ups are vital.


Tooth decay is the destruction of teeth caused by plaque acids that are released after we eat/drink something.  When decay breaks into the tooth it will only get bigger until treated.  Tooth decay can lead to severe toothache. Treatment may be a filling, a crown or an inlay.  If the decay gets into the center of the tooth where the nerve lies, the tooth will need root canal treatment or extraction.

Reducing the risks of dental decay involves:

  • Good oral hygiene to remove plaque and provide fluoride into the mouth,
  • together with a tooth-kind diet with limited snacking between meals and
  • regular check-ups.

You will find a lot more advice and tips in our sections on gum disease and tooth decay prevention.



As well as dental decay and gum disease, if you are neglecting your teeth, they may also be at risk of damage from tooth-wear.

There are three main types of tooth-wear.  These are;

  • Erosion from acidic foods and drinks.
  • Abrasion from over-brushing your teeth.
  • Attrition from grinding the teeth, often at night.

For advice on preventing damage from these causes see the section on dental erosion and tooth-wear.


Smoking Tobacco and Drinking Alcohol: The Risks to your Mouth

Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol in large amounts regularly can lead to a variety of problems in your mouth.  These problems can include:


  • Worsens gum disease.
  • Causes staining and yellowing of the teeth.
  • Causes Bad breath.
  • Increases risk of infections in the mouth.
  • Delays healing of any infections that occur.
  • Can cause implants to fail.



  • Many alcoholic drinks contain a lot of sugar which can lead to tooth decay.
  • Similarly, many are acidic causing dental erosion.
  • Staining from red wine in particular.
  • Dry mouth which can lead to decay and gum disease.


Mouth Cancer

Both smoking and drinking alone will increase the risk of developing mouth cancer.  But if you do both, the risk is multiplied greatly.  It is never too late to stop smoking, and your dentist can help lead you in the right direction.


So there are many problems you can expect to encounter if you are neglecting your teeth.  These problems can be going on in your mouth without you knowing about them, until it is too late: the damage is done.   You can expect tooth aches, hours of dental treatment with a lot of costs, loss of teeth and a loss of a nice smile.

Alternatively, you can look after your teeth and help avoid all these problems!

See here for tips on avoiding poor oral hygiene.

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