Updated: Sep 26, 2022
There are some things in life that you think you’ve mastered. Walking, breathing, brushing your teeth…easy right?
Well, maybe not.
Studies show that many Americans don’t know proper brushing rules, but don’t fear, Dr. Singh is here!
It’s all in the timing.
The American Dental Association advises that people brush at least twice a day for two minutes and floss at least once daily. While brushing after every meal or snack might be ideal, it’s often too much for our patients. And depending on how—and more specifically when—you brush your teeth, you may be doing more harm than good.
Delay your brushing.
We’ve all been there. It’s a busy morning–you eat breakfast, do a quick breath check, and realize your coffee breath is strong enough to make your coworkers pass out.
You head to the bathroom for a speedy toothbrushing session. Surely, you’re going to win the best patient award by your dentist!
Hold that thought.
The problem is that most foods and beverages, especially sugary or acidic ones, soften the enamel of your teeth. If you brush right after drinking coffee or eating a bagel, you could damage your teeth’s enamel. It might take a little more mindfulness and planning, but you should always wait 30 minutes after eating or drinking (except water) to brush your teeth.
The opposite is also true: you should wait 30 minutes after your brush to eat or drink. Brushing is a naturally abrasive action which, ironically, can temporarily weaken the enamel. So drinking that coffee or soda right after you brush might not taste so good and is also damaging to your enamel.
Drink lots of water
Everyone knows water is critical in order to stay hydrated, but drinking plenty of water helps to rinse your teeth and mouth. The longer acid or sugar from the foods you’ve just eaten sits in your mouth, the more harm it does to your teeth. So while you’re waiting between eating and brushing, drink lots of water. You can even swish some water around your mouth. If you are the kind of person that sips on several cups of coffee in the morning or multiple diet-sodas in the afternoon, keep drinking water along with these beverages.
Even when you aren’t eating or drinking an acidic or sugary beverage, you should still be consuming lots of water. That’s because your saliva is an important piece to your dental health. In addition to essential minerals that help strengthen your enamel, saliva is made up primarily of water. And dry mouth is a double-edged sword: you don’t have the benefits of nature’s mineralizing mouthwash and a dry oral cavity promotes the growth of harmful bacteria.
How else can you freshen your mouth?
Chewing gum is a safe option if you want that minty-fresh taste but can’t brush your teeth. Xylitol gum, in particular, can help rinse and neutralize the acids released by the bacteria in plaque, which are harmful to tooth enamel. Look for gums and mints that contain xylitol.