We are all familiar with the refrain: brush twice a day, or after every meal. But how many of us are actually brushing after every meal? And do we really have to? We hope this overview will bring some clarity to the issue.
After-Meal Offenders: Sugar and Carbs
The two biggest threats to your oral health are found in many meals and snacks in the American diet: sugar and carbohydrates. As Rebecca Desfosse, writing for Colgate, explains, “Certain foods and drinks – especially those high in carbohydrates and sugars – spur the creation of certain bacteria in your mouth that attack your tooth enamel for at least twenty minutes after you eat a meal or have a snack.” So, it is definitely a good idea to do your enamel a favor and brush your teeth soon after eating a meal or snack that prominently features sugar and carbs–perhaps a special meal or a treat. Doing so will remove the harmful bacteria right away and protect your enamel.
Acidic Foods and Toothbrushing
When it comes to acidic foods and drinks, the answer of whether to brush after a meal gets a bit more complicated. Some examples of foods and drinks that are acidic include, but aren’t limited to, citrus fruits, coffee, and even beer. Because acidic foods and drinks weaken enamel, brushing right away can do more harm than good. Thomas J. Salinas, writing for the Mayo Clinic, gives this advice: “If you’ve eaten an acidic food or drink, avoid brushing your teeth right away. These acids weaken tooth enamel, and brushing too soon can remove enamel.” If you want to brush, you can wait about a half hour to give your enamel time to recover. Drinking plenty of water will also aid in decreasing the impact of acidic foods and drinks on your enamel.
The ADA Recommendation
When it comes down to it, the American Dental Association’s recommendation is that kids and adults brush twice a day, not after every meal. So, while it can definitely be a bonus to your oral health to brush after some meals or snacks, do not feel guilty or irresponsible if you are not brushing after meals. Instead, focus on brushing twice daily for at least two minutes at a time and practicing other important oral health habits like flossing once a day, drinking plenty of water, and eating a variety of healthy foods.