For many people, it’s a habit to brush after every meal — or even after they eat anything at all, including snacks. You might find it surprising to learn that brushing immediately after eating isn’t actually the best thing to do for your teeth. Here’s what you should know about brushing after you eat.
Your Enamel: Strong and Healthy or Weak and Vulnerable?
You can think of enamel as the shield that protects your tooth. While it’s made of very hard minerals — stronger even than your bones — it happens to be highly vulnerable to one thing: acids. Your mouth maintains a healthy pH balance naturally, but when you eat and drink that balance changes.
The foods and liquids that contain 0 acids can greatly soften your tooth enamel. The acids then change the pH balance of your mouth from alkaline into acidic. When this happens, acids start to eat their way into the already softened tooth enamel, burrowing pores and holes into the enamel and allowing bacteria to enter.
Some of the foods that contain the highest levels of acids include oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, lemons, limes, and other citrus fruit. Another common acid offender is carbonated soda, whether diet or full-calorie. Additionally, any type of food or drink that has high levels of processed sugar will bring harmful acids into your mouth.
Why is Brushing After You Eat Wrong?
As mentioned above, your tooth enamel grows weaker when it’s exposed to food and drinks containing acids. When it’s in this vulnerable softened condition, brushing your teeth will cause damage to the enamel. Your toothbrush will actually brush away some of the enamel that your teeth need for protection. Even a soft bristle brush is much too abrasive to apply to your tooth enamel when it’s in a weakened state because of exposure to acids. The best course of action after you eat is to avoid any brushing at all — at least right away.
How Soon After Eating Should You Brush Your Teeth?
It’s best if you don’t brush for an hour or more after eating, especially if you’ve had some high acid foods like citrus, soda, or sugary foods. Just because you shouldn’t brush your teeth right away doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything, though. It’s just fine — and in fact, highly recommended — to rinse your mouth out with water. Even just drinking a cup or bottle of water after you’ve had a high acid meal can be very helpful in keeping the acid and its problems away from your tooth enamel.
When you’re on the go for meals quite often, you might want to consider purchasing a pack of sugar-free gum to have on hand for chewing after meals. Sugar-free gums that contain xylitol are particularly helpful in bringing your mouth back to a healthy pH balance after you have consumed food or drink with a high acid level. Another thing that neutralizes acid is milk or other dairy products.
Once it’s been around an hour or so, it’s fine to brush your teeth using your normal routine. Many people find that it’s a bit of an adjustment at first — after all, it’s second nature for many people to brush their teeth as soon as they’ve finished eating — but you’ll grow used to this new routine very soon. Your teeth will thank you for it!
The information above applies to both children and adults. In fact, it’s especially vital for kids because their tooth enamel isn’t as strong as adult tooth enamel, which means baby teeth can suffer acid damage all too easily.
Artistic Touch Dentistry provides general, preventative, cosmetic, and restorative dentistry to children and adults in the Melbourne, Florida area. The Artistic Touch Dentistry team is dedicated to helping every patient enjoy the best dental health possible. Contact us anytime to arrange your next appointment!