We all know the importance of daily brushing and flossing. You have likely heard that you should brush your teeth twice daily with a soft-bristle toothbrush. When should you brush your teeth in the morning? Is it better to brush your teeth before or after breakfast? Our dental specialists are here to answer your tooth-brushing questions!
- Brushing before breakfast removes morning plaque and bacteria, reduces morning breath, and boosts saliva flow while eating.
- Brushing after breakfast can change the flavor of food and may cause harm if done immediately after eating due to acidic byproducts.
- If brushing after eating, wait at least 30 minutes to an hour to allow the acid in the mouth to neutralize.
- Foods that can damage enamel if brushed immediately include orange juice, dried fruits, citrus fruits, bread and pastries, and coffee.
- Consider drinking water or chewing sugar-free gum after eating acidic foods until it’s safe to brush your teeth.
Why timing matters
When you brush your teeth, your goal is to remove plaque, bacteria, and excess food particles trapped between your teeth that can attack the enamel or the protective tooth layer. Given this goal, you would assume that brushing your teeth after eating is the best idea. However, that is not always the case. Brushing teeth immediately after eating can actually damage your teeth more.
Let’s take a closer look at the differences between timing when it comes to teeth brushing.
Brushing before breakfast
As you sleep, bacteria build up in your mouth, creating a plaque biofilm over your teeth. These contribute to the morning breath we all experience. Brushing your teeth as soon as you wake up immediately removes this plaque and bacteria, reducing the risk of your morning breakfast providing fuel for further bacterial growth.
In addition, brushing your teeth before enjoying your favorite breakfast can also help prevent bacteria buildup while you eat. A 2018 study shows that brushing your teeth boosts your salivary flow even after brushing is complete. Saliva is a defense system for your teeth, helping to wash away food particles and bacteria from your mouth when you eat. Having an increased saliva flow when eating your breakfast helps keep your teeth healthy.
An added bonus of brushing teeth before eating is that your fluoride toothpaste helps coat your enamel with a protective barrier against acid commonly found in popular breakfast foods.
Brushing after breakfast
While brushing your teeth before breakfast is the preferred time, many will argue that brushing their teeth before eating changes the flavor of foods. In this case, brushing your food after your breakfast is better than nothing. However, brushing your teeth right after could cause more harm than good.
When you eat, the particles mix with the natural bacteria in your mouth and create an acidic byproduct. This, combined with foods high in acid, can etch into the enamel of your teeth and wear it down. If you brush your teeth immediately after eating, your toothbrush essentially scrubs this acid into the surface of your teeth, causing more harm than good.
If you must brush your teeth after eating, the American Dental Association recommends waiting at least 30 minutes to an hour before brushing. This allows the acid in your mouth to neutralize and reduces the risk of damage to your enamel.
Foods that can damage enamel if brushed immediately
When it comes to eating, tooth brushing, and the health of your teeth, not all foods are created equal. If you brush your teeth after eating, many of these foods can put your teeth at risk of damage. If these foods are on your breakfast menu, consider drinking water or chewing sugar-free gum after eating to help cleanse your mouth until you can brush your teeth safely an hour later.
Orange juice is a common breakfast beverage. While healthy and packed with vitamin C, it coats your teeth with natural acids. In addition, many orange juices have added sugar which is converted into additional acid by the bacteria in your mouth. Brushing your teeth after drinking orange juice not only tastes unpleasant but can be damaging to your dental enamel.
While dried fruits are a healthy addition to your morning granola or yogurt, these fruits contain high concentrations of acid. Their sticky nature adheres to the surface of your teeth, creating a concentrated exposure to the natural acid. In addition, natural sugars in the fruit combine with the bacteria in your mouth, creating a very acidic environment.
Similar to orange juice, citrus fruits are packed with acid that coats your teeth as you eat. Waiting at least 30 minutes to an hour after eating an orange or grapefruit is essential.
Bread and pastries
Bread and pastries are a wonderful treat to your tastebuds for breakfast, but they are also an excellent breakfast for the bacteria in your mouth. The high carbohydrate concentration in these foods feeds the bacteria in your mouth, increasing plaque production. In addition, the sugars found in these foods create an acidic byproduct when combined with your mouth’s bacteria.
While most of us cannot start the day without our morning cup of Joe, coffee is a naturally acidic beverage. In fact, the brewing process of coffee releases nine different acids that help contribute to the unique coffee flavor. If you are a regular coffee drinker during the morning, waiting at least 30 minutes after your last sip is essential before brushing your teeth.
Brushing your teeth can make a difference.
At New Leaf Rohnert Park, our goal is to help you achieve good oral health and maintain your beautiful smile with routine dental exams and teeth cleanings. While we promote brushing your teeth at least twice a day, we understand that brushing at the right time of day is not always possible with today’s busy routines. However, taking these considerations into account can help ensure you get the most out of your tooth brushing and that your teeth stay as healthy as possible.
To learn more about proper tooth brushing or to discuss other dental concerns, the team at New Leaf Rohnert Park is here to help. Contact us online today or call the office at (707) 607-8695 to schedule an appointment.