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What to Eat When You Can’t Brush Your Teeth After Lunch

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

You’re supposed to brush your teeth after each meal, right? Yes. That’s super easy for breakfast and dinner because you eat many of those meals at home. But what about lunch? If you’re like most people, you have lunch during the workday or the school day, your time is limited and may not allow for oral care. Here are some good food ideas for your teeth when you can’t brush and even when you can.

Dairy Foods

According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, calcium and phosphates found in dairy foods help rebuild tooth enamel and replenish minerals diminished by other foods. Milk. Plain yogurt. Cheese. They all contain calcium, one of the best nutrients for healthy teeth. Also, cheese has the added benefit of enzymes that help neutralize the bacteria that can harm your teeth after a meal.

Fruits and Vegetables

Brush your teeth with some celery. Obviously, we’re kidding, but we’re not too far off. According to the American Dental Association, eating fiber-rich fresh vegetables and fruit can help keep your teeth and gums clean and generate saliva. Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals. Berries, melons, pears, and apples. Celery, carrots, broccoli, and cucumbers. All great choices. If you prefer to drink your fruits and veggies, go for unsweetened juices.

Whole Grains

If you’re going to eat bread or pasta, make sure it’s whole grain. This includes whole-wheat pasta, whole-wheat bread, and oatmeal. They boast more nutrition and less sugar than processed grains.


Proteins are great for lunch. Most are low in sugar. Proteins contain phosphorous, which is essential in protecting teeth enamel. Chicken and fish have vitamin B3 (niacin). Almonds and other nuts boast vitamins B2 (riboflavin), B12, and iron. All of which promote healthy teeth and gums.

What not to eat for lunch

Almost everyone loves a sweet now and then. But please don’t make a meal of them. It’s best to stay away from sugars and starches, especially if you cannot brush your teeth after lunch. Both contribute to tooth decay and gum disease. When sugars and starches come in contact with plaque (sticky bacteria), acid is formed. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, these acids start doing damage 20 minutes after eating or drinking. They erode your surface teeth enamel. If this happens often, it will lead to tooth decay. Additionally, bacteria in plaque cause an inflammatory response harming your gums, bone, and other teeth structures. Try and save the sweets for special occasions if you can. If not, keep your toothbrush and floss handy.

For lunch, make sure you choose foods that are good for your oral health, especially if you’re not able to brush and floss (also known as interdental cleaning) after eating. Dairy, fruits and veggies, whole grains, and proteins are your best choices. Also, drink lots of water. It can help wash away leftover food particles and enzymes. And if at all possible, brush and floss after lunch. Your teeth will thank you for the rest of the day and maybe even your life.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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