Taking good care of your teeth will not only help you have a great looking smile, but it will also keep you healthy in ways you have never thought of before. Here’s what happens if you don’t brush your teeth?

Your mouth is a gateway to your body, and it’s not very pristine – it’s dirty, dark, and full of breeding bacteria. In fact, your mouth contains more bacteria than there are people on earth.

Brushing your teeth regularly helps to eliminate those excess bacteria, but also food particles and plaque. If you don’t brush your teeth, those things can push your immune system to go into overdrive, which can lead to all sorts of health problems including coronary heart disease, dementia, pneumonia and even erectile dysfunction. So the consequences of not brushing your teeth at all is much worse than cavities or gingivitis your dentists warn you about.

But, before we get further, let’s start with the basics. So what is plaque?

Plaque is a slimy, sticky films that constantly grows on your teeth, and it contains millions of bacteria. When you eat, the bacteria in plaque use leftover sugars in your mouth to produce enamel eating acid that gnaws away at your teeth. And with repeated attacks, the bacteria cause the enamel to break down, eventually leaving holes in your teeth known as cavities.

Plaque, if not removed regularly by brushing or flossing, can also cause inflammation of the gums, known as gingivitis, discolored teeth, oral abscesses and bad breath. Moreover, as bacteria continues to build up, your chance of getting periodontitis – a more severe form of gum disease – increases. Periodontitis causes tissue, gums and the bone that supports your teeth to disintegrate.

As you know, most bacteria in your mouth are quite harmless, but things like Staphylococcus aureus and MRSA can thrive in there. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureu, commonly referred to as MRSA, can cause infections in different parts of the body including the skin. What makes MRSA different from other forms of staph is that it cannot be killed by a number of commonly used antibiotics. So if you never brush your teeth, harmful bacteria like MRSA can worm their way under your gums and get access to your blood line.

Poor oral hygiene has also been linked to pneumonia, dementia, heart disease and endocarditis – an infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers. A few controversial studies have also claimed to have found links between bad oral hygiene and erectile dysfunction. Studies have also shown that periodontitis may promote the growth of human papillomavirus (HPV) and cancerous cells in the mouth.

Well, everyone’s health is different. Someone with good genes could go without brushing for over a year and not face any of these serious health problems, but their teeth would still be covered in plaque. And their breath would smell horrible. Whether you choose to toss your toothbrush away for a week, a month or a year, the consequences will always be the same.

So how often do you brush your teeth? Do you floss every day? What’s the longest you’ve gone without brushing your teeth? Let me know in the comments below.