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Why don’t some people brush their teeth?

Oral hygiene is extremely important for maintaining good health, yet many people fail to brush their teeth regularly. Not brushing teeth can lead to a variety of oral health problems including tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath. So why would someone neglect this basic self-care routine that takes just a couple minutes each day?

Lack of Education

One of the main reasons some people don’t brush their teeth is simply a lack of education about proper oral hygiene. If no one teaches the importance of brushing from a young age, it may not become an ingrained daily habit. Adults who were never instructed as children may continue with poor brushing habits. Additionally, some people may not understand the consequences of not brushing such as cavities, tooth loss, and infection. More education is needed to inform the public about dental care.

When Education is Lacking

Without proper education on oral hygiene, people may not brush their teeth for a variety of reasons:

  • They don’t understand the health risks of not brushing
  • They don’t know the proper brushing techniques
  • They were not taught to brush thoroughly twice a day
  • They believe other oral hygiene habits like mouthwash are sufficient

Laziness and Lack of Motivation

Let’s face it – good oral hygiene requires daily work! You have to remember to brush, spend the time doing it properly, and floss too. That’s a lot of effort some people don’t want to expend each day, especially before bed when they just want to crash. Brushing can take willpower when you’re exhausted. Some people are just too lazy or unmotivated to put in the work for their dental health.

Signs of Laziness

Laziness and lack of motivation regarding oral hygiene may show up as:

  • Not owning a toothbrush or having supplies
  • Forgetting to brush regularly
  • Rushing through brushing
  • Not brushing thoroughly – missing spots
  • Not flossing at all

Depression and Mental Health Issues

Mental health problems like depression can severely impact someone’s ability to keep up with daily hygiene routines. Depression zaps energy and motivation, making even simple tasks like brushing teeth feel impossible. Other conditions like anxiety, PTSD, schizophrenia, and eating disorders can also get in the way of oral care.

How Mental Health Interferes with Brushing

Those struggling with mental illness may avoid brushing because:

  • They have low motivation and trouble self-caring
  • They isolate themselves from society and hygiene norms
  • They have memory problems or lose track of habits
  • They have physical symptoms like lack of focus or fatigue

Fears about Brushing

Surprisingly, some people don’t brush their teeth due to dental phobias and fears. Concerns like gagging, being uncomfortable with having objects in their mouth, or fear of bleeding gums can all discourage brushing. Traumatic dental experiences as a child is one factor that can cause toothbrushing phobia lasting into adulthood. Other neurological issues like sensory processing disorder can also make toothbrushing unbearable.

Common Dental Fears

Phobias that may interfere with brushing habits include:

  • Fear of choking while brushing
  • Gagging or discomfort having a toothbrush in mouth
  • Being afraid of bleeding gums
  • Avoiding stimulation from toothpaste smells or tastes
  • Dental trauma from past cavity drilling or procedures

Limited Access to Oral Hygiene

Lack of access to toothbrushes, toothpaste, and other supplies poses barriers to oral hygiene for disadvantaged populations. People experiencing homelessness often have limited ability to practice regular dental care. In impoverished areas and developing countries, many people cannot afford dental care products.

Barriers to Brushing

Situations that can limit access to oral hygiene resources include:

  • Being homeless without regular access to a sink and supplies
  • Living in poverty and inability to afford toothbrushes/toothpaste
  • Having disabilities that make brushing difficult without accommodations
  • Residing in a developing nation with limited dental care resources
  • Being in an institution like prison with restricted access to dental hygiene

Cultural Factors

Cultural background can play a role in oral hygiene habits too. Certain cultural beliefs may not emphasize dental care, while some customs can lead to increased tooth decay risk. Many immigrant families continue traditions from their native countries instead of adopting new dental hygiene practices.

Cultural Influences

Cultural factors that contribute to poor dental care include:

  • Beliefs that oral health isn’t important
  • Using chewing sticks instead of toothbrushes
  • Traditional diets high in sugar/starch
  • Habit of chewing betel nuts which blacken teeth
  • Valuing practices like tooth chiseling or staining

Smoking and Drug Use

Unhealthy habits like smoking and drug use can be closely tied to poor oral hygiene. Not only do these activities damage dental health, but people engaging in them often neglect self-care overall. Smoking and drugs can cause gum disease leading to tooth loss. Meth use especially is linked to severe tooth decay known as “meth mouth.”

Risks of Smoking and Drugs

Smoking and drug use contribute to poor dental care through:

  • Tooth discoloration and increased plaque from smoking
  • Severe tooth decay from meth use drying out the mouth
  • Reducing motivation for habits like brushing and flossing
  • Causing dental issues that discourage proper care
  • Prioritizing buying cigarettes/drugs over dental products

Aging Factors

As people age, dental hygiene may decline due to factors like chronic health conditions, medications, cognitive impairment, and limited mobility. Arthritis in hands and fingers can make holding a toothbrush difficult. Medications that cause dry mouth or gum changes also contribute to problems. Dementia can cause people to forget daily habits like brushing.

How Aging Contributes

Reasons elderly individuals may stop brushing include:

  • Chronic illness making self-care difficult
  • Arthritis/mobility limitations affecting abilities
  • Medications causing dental side effects
  • Memory loss leading to forgotten habits
  • Vision loss making dental care hard
  • Isolation and lack of reminders/support


While oral hygiene is vital for health, some people still avoid regular brushing and flossing due to various factors. Lack of education, motivational issues, mental illness, fears, lack of resources, culture, unhealthy habits, and aging effects can all play a role. But everyone deserves a chance at good dental care. More community support and education could help promote proper brushing habits for all.