Brushing Your Teeth Before Sex Is More Dangerous Than You Think

When Netflix's "One Day" heroine, Emma Morley (Ambika Mod), runs into the bathroom to brush her teeth before continuing her night-time activities with Dexter Mayhew (Leo Woodall), some of us could relate to the character. Of course, you brush your teeth before things get hot and heavy in the bedroom. No one wants to smell and taste of wine and burgers when they're getting intimate, right? 

But as it turns out, brushing and flossing your teeth is actually the worst thing you can do before sex, per dental and sexual health practitioners. Dental hygiene practices like using a normal toothbrush, going around your teeth and gums with an electric toothbrush, and flossing between your teeth can all cause microtears in your gums or other surfaces inside your mouth, and this can leave you at more risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). 

"Any areas of the body where the integrity of the skin or mucosal surface is broken — cut in the mouth, scratch on the skin — increases risk of getting sick if the area isn't cleaned, and your immune system isn't in good shape," explained Dr. Erika Schwartz, an internal medicine specialist and author of "The Intimacy Solution: Life Lessons in Sex and Love" (per Well+Good). Transmitting disease from scratches or bleeding after a vigorous pre-sex toothbrushing session includes kissing and other sexual activities like oral sex.

The connection between oral sex and STIs

If you thought avoiding the main sex act — active penetration — and only engaging in oral sex could leave you less at risk of contracting an STI, think again. Although it's not very common that you'd get HIV by engaging in oral sex, other diseases like herpes, HPV, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and hepatitis B can occur when you go down on someone, per experts. And this can happen without a cut or scrape in your mouth.

But what about brushing your teeth after oral sex? We get it. You might not be the most eager to spend the rest of your day with that taste in your mouth. Health practitioners think this is also a bad idea, especially if you're thinking of brushing or flossing soon after engaging in sexual activities. It's the same thing as brushing before the act: You're putting yourself at risk of creating abrasions that can invite dangerous bacteria and viruses to enter your bloodstream.

So what's the deal with dental hygiene and sex? Can they not go together at all?

How to practice safe sex and good dental hygiene

It has to be said that getting tested and/or wearing protective things like condoms and dental dams (especially if you don't know about your partner's sexual history) offer the most protection against disease. It's also good to make it a habit to regularly check your mouth for any open wounds like cuts, sores, or bleeding, especially if you're about to engage in sex. This is where regular dental care comes in. Keep up with your dentist appointments. STIs that cause symptoms in your mouth can be identified if you examine your mouth.

That being said, if you really want to smell and taste fresh before sex, some experts think that by strengthening your gums with regular dental hygiene habits like brushing and flossing, you might be able to reduce your chances of creating cuts or abrasions. "The healthier your gums are, the more firm they are and less likely to bleed," explained Dr. Zainab Mackie, a general dentist practicing in Grosse Pointe, Michigan (via BuzzFeed). 

Others, however, recommend skipping the brushing and flossing before and after sex altogether. Using an anti-bacterial mouthwash can prevent mouth bleeding and still help you feel more comfortable in the bedroom. Ultimately, there is no getting around the fact that your sex life can impact your health. You can have the best of all worlds — great sex, preventing the spread of STIs, and tasting fresh — if you exercise caution and good judgment.