What’s the Rush to Brush After Eating?
Most of us learned from a young age that brushing at least twice a day, especially after eating, is the best way to protect our teeth and prevent cavities. Brushing after meals removes food debris and helps prevent plaque formation. But brushing immediately after eating is not always a good idea. It turns out it depends on what you eat.
Brushing right after eating carbohydrate-rich foods like bread and pasta, or foods high in sugars like caramels and sodas, is a good idea. Brushing immediately stops acid attacks on your tooth enamel by removing bacteria and debris before carbohydrates and sugars are converted to acids that attack teeth enamel.
Acidic Foods and Brushing
It isn’t always a good idea to brush your teeth right away. If you eat or drink foods or beverages high in acid (citrus, juices, teas, sports drinks, tomatoes), waiting for at least a half-hour before brushing is advisable. Highly acidic foods attack tooth enamel. If you brush right after eating, you may damage your tooth enamel because brushing actually pushes the acid into your teeth.
Foods with high acid content can cause more damage if you brush too soon because the acid has already softened the enamel, leaving it vulnerable to the effects of bacteria. It takes about 30 minutes for your tooth enamel to harden and remineralize so that you don’t brush it away when cleaning your teeth. Instead, drink a glass of water immediately after eating acidic foods to rinse away some of the acids. Brush after 30 minutes or more to remove food debris and prevent plaque buildup.
Minimizing the Effect of Acids on Your Teeth
There are ways to protect your teeth from the effects of acid between brushings:
- Avoid eating acidic foods by themselves. Combining them with other foods helps neutralize acids.
- Always drink water after acidic foods or drinks.
- Drink acidic beverages through a straw to reduce contact with your teeth.
- Cut back on sugary foods, which convert to acids.
When and How to Brush
We recommend brushing your teeth after breakfast so that your teeth are clean and free of plaque during the day. Brushing before bed provides the same advantage – you remove debris and bacteria before sleeping, so your teeth are not attacked overnight. Between these two brushings, brush if you can after eating or drinking, keeping in mind that waiting 30 minutes after eating acidic foods is best. Don’t forget to rinse your mouth with water after every meal, particularly if brushing isn’t practical.
Proper brushing includes knowing when and how to brush your teeth to prevent damage to tooth enamel. Having your teeth cleaned professionally twice a year is one of the best ways to preserve your dental health and protect your teeth’s enamel.
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