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Is Brushing Teeth After Eating Good for You?

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Everyone wants healthy teeth, and brushing is a huge part of making that happen. When it comes to having good brushing habits, it’s not just about how, it’s also about when. Have you wondered when the right time to brush your teeth is? Some people think that brushing their teeth right after eating is the right thing to do. While there is some merit to this school of thought, we’re here to help you consider all the variables and make an informed decision.

Can Food Left on and between Your Teeth Lead to Tooth Decay?

When you eat, plaque (a sticky, white biofilm) forms on your teeth. Plaque contains bacteria. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, after you eat something that contains sugar, this bacteria produces acids that will attack your tooth enamel for at least twenty minutes after your meal. If you don’t brush and get rid of this plaque buildup regularly, the acid that gets produced will break down your enamel, resulting in cavities.

Plaque that isn’t removed can harden into tartar. When tartar builds up on your gums, it can cause inflammation, and if untreated, gum disease.

So Does That Mean You Should Brush Right After You Eat?

Not necessarily! Brushing your teeth after eating can sometimes affect your tooth enamel. In fact, the Mayo Clinic warns that if you’ve consumed foods containing citric acid, like oranges, grapefruits, and lemons, brushing too soon can be bad for your teeth. Why? Because these acidic foods weaken tooth enamel and brushing too quickly can remove the enamel.

To be safe, Mouth Healthy by the American Dental Association suggests that if you feel like you need to brush your teeth after eating or drinking something, wait at least 60 minutes. This gives your saliva a chance to naturally wash away food particles, so your mouth returns to its proper pH level. It's best to stick to drinking water or chew sugarless gum while waiting for this to happen.

Is It Fine to Wait Until Before Bed to Brush?

Yes, it is! What’s important is that you ensure you brush sometime after your last meal and before you go to bed. If you go to sleep without brushing, you’re allowing plaque to build up, attack the tooth enamel, irritate the gums and harden on and between your teeth and at the gumline. So whether you decide to brush an hour after you eat dinner or brush right before you sleep, it's important to brush effectively at the gumline and on all surfaces of the teeth.

Does this mean you shouldn’t brush your teeth after your meals? Now that you have all the information, it’s up to you. Only one is certain: if you give your teeth and gums two whole minutes of brushing and flossing twice a day, you’ll be able to seize each day, armed with strong teeth and a fresh and healthy mouth!


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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