Fact Or Fiction: Should You Brush Your Teeth After You Eat?

You’ve finished your meal and your first instinct is to rush to the bathroom and give your teeth a nice cleaning. Before you pick up that toothbrush, you need to know what happens to your teeth if you brush too soon after eating.

What Does Food Do To Our Teeth?

Not all foods affect your teeth in a negative manner. However, food and beverages that are high in sugar, acid and carbohydrates do. For example, when you eat something that is processed and chase it with a soft drink, certain bacteria in your mouth will get activated and start attacking your enamel (the outer layer of each tooth). Our mouths contain a lot of bacteria, some of which is essential to our oral health. Unfortunately, it is the bad bacteria that responds to sugary, acidic and carbohydrate-heavy foods.

If you are someone who enjoys a pop or loves foods that are high in sugar, you are exposing your teeth to phosphoric acid. This is what gives soft drinks (even diet drinks!) their flavour. Prolonged exposure to phosphoric acid will lead to permanent dental erosion. This type of erosion dismantles your teeth’s natural structure, leaving them thin and yellow. There is no cure for dental erosion, but you can manage it if it does happen to you. The best way to prevent erosion is to avoid foods that are high in sugar and acid.

What Happens When You Brush Right After Eating?

If you can wait between 30 minutes to one hour before brushing your teeth following a meal, you will help save your enamel. When we brush too soon after eating or drinking acidic, sugary foods, we are at risk for erosion and enamel damage. By brushing right after a meal, you are essentially weakening your enamel and giving it carte blanche to erode into nothing.

It’s not just processed foods and soft drinks that are high in sugar and acid, it’s natural foods too. However, this does not mean that you can’t eat oranges, grapefruits and lemons. It just means that you should wait the required amount of time before brushing after having a fruit salad or natural fruit juice.

What To Do If You Want To Brush Your Teeth After Eating?

Most of us want that clean feeling after we eat. The first thing you should do after a meal is drink water. Water will wash away the acids leftover from the food. Chewing sugarless gum—ask your dentist which kinds they recommend—can also give you a fresh feeling after eating. You can also modify your diet so that you are not relying on sugary carbohydrates for every meal. Stick with nutritious foods like lean proteins, whole grains and leafy greens. Plus, these foods will fill you up and reduce your cravings for acidic, sugary foods.

How To Brush Properly

Now that you know when to brush your teeth, ask yourself if you know the proper brushing techniques. According to the Canadian Dental Association (CDA), the brushing process should take at least two minutes. Most of us are guilty of only brushing for 30-45 seconds, so set a timer to make sure you’re being thorough.

The CDA has broken down the brushing process into simple steps:

  • Use a soft bristled brush with rounded bristles
  • You can use an electric or manual brush as long as you can comfortably reach your back teeth
  • Tilt your hand so that you’re brushing at a 45 degree angle
  • Place the bristles where your gums and teeth meet
  • Move your hands in a gentle circular motion
  • Do not scrub or brush too hard; otherwise your gums will recede
  • Ensure that you are reaching every side of your teeth
  • Brush your tongue, cheeks and roof of your mouth to get rid of bacteria and food particles
  • Replace your brush every three months or sooner if you get sick

What Toothpaste Should You Be Using?

With so many products on the market, it can be hard to tell what kind of toothpaste you need. From whitening products, ones that help with tooth sensitivity and ones that contain mouthwash, going to the drugstore to buy toothpaste can turn into an adventure. Look for products that contain the certification seal of the Canadian or American Dental Associations. Do not use toothpaste from a brand you’ve never heard of. For instance, if your local dollar store has a line of toothpaste, chances are it does not carry the approval of the CDA or ADA. Your best bet would be to ask your dentist which toothpaste they recommend; that way you know you’re getting a product that works.

Brushing your teeth is an exact science that must be done right; otherwise you could suffer from oral health issues. For more information about proper brushing techniques and to book your next appointment, please contact us.

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