Brushing shortly after certain meals or drinks can do more harm than good
Brushing your teeth is one way to protect them. It will certainly help you keep your smile looking good longer. It removes harmful bacteria and acid from your teeth, helping to prevent cavities. Recent research, however, has discovered that it may be best to wait a little while after you eat to prevent damaging your teeth.
The Benefits of Toothbrushing
Plaque is that layer of film you feel forming on your teeth every day. It is composed of bacteria. Whenever some of the bacteria consume sugar, it produces the acid that causes cavities and gum disease. This makes removing it from your teeth on a regular basis important – if you want to keep your teeth longer.
The acid produced by these bacteria is constantly eroding the enamel on your teeth. Saliva also helps to remove it and is a natural protection for your teeth – but it is not enough by itself. It helps protect your teeth by helping your mouth to return a more neutral pH level.
When you eat a meal, it will usually be combined with a mix of various types – possibly including some foods and drinks that are acidic. Many foods and drinks have acid in them – even ones that are often considered healthy.
Two of the worst most acidic foods and drinks are citrus fruit and sodas. Both of these contain a lot of acids. When you eat them, it adds to the erosion already being caused by the acid from the bacteria.
Eating acidic foods will increase the speed at which the enamel on your teeth becomes eroded. It softens the enamel, which can make it more easily damaged by a toothbrush. Even a soft-bristled toothbrush may be too abrasive and still remove some tiny bits of enamel.
A Deeper Problem
Another problem also occurs deeper in the tooth. The enamel on your teeth has microscopic pores in it. Under the layer of enamel, there is a layer called dentin. It is softer than the enamel. Brushing your teeth when they are softer will only force some of the acid on to the dentin, which will erode it faster.
If you wait about 20 to 30 minutes after eating, the damaged tooth enamel will become hard again, and you can brush without any problems. Instead of waiting to brush your teeth, you can rinse your mouth out with water.
Soda has its own acid added to it. This is usually phosphoric acid. Diet sodas also have just as much acid in them, but it may be citric acid instead – which will also erode your teeth.
The Sugar Problem
Sugar is another problem for your teeth and keeping your smile intact. Whenever the bacteria consume sugar or carbs, it produces acid. It will continue to produce acid for 20 minutes after each sip or bite of food with sugar in it. This means that the more sugar you consume, the more acid there will be in your mouth – and the longer it will be there.
There are many foods that have a lot of acid in them. Some of them might surprise you. A food's acidity level is measured on a pH scale, which ranges from 6.9 to 1.0. Foods with pH levels closer to 1.0 are the most acidic. Some highly acidic foods that may be on your table often – with their acidity levels – are:
Beer (pH 4.4)
Orange juice (pH 3.8)
Pickles (pH 3.2)
Soda (pH 2.5)
Red wine (pH 2.5)
Vinegar (pH 2.0)
Protecting Your Teeth
While you should not brush your teeth after eating acidic foods or drinks, there are some things you can do to help protect your teeth and remove the acid from your mouth after eating. They include:
Drinking water after your meal – rinsing or drinking water after consuming sugary or acidic foods will help remove the acid from your teeth.
Brushing your teeth twice a day (not right after meals) and flossing will help keep your teeth and gums healthy.
Drinking water through the day – this will help to ensure that you have enough saliva all day long.
Chewing sugarless gum – this helps you generate more saliva – gum with xylitol is best.
Eating healthy – this provides the minerals and vitamins your teeth need every day to replace the nutrients lost from the acid.
Eat foods such as milk or cheese to conclude your meal – they are basically non-acidic.
If you have developed cavities or gum disease, getting it taken care of quickly can help you avoid more expensive dental procedures. It will also help protect your smile and keep it looking good. Dr. Kumar T. Vadivel, DDS, FDS RCS, MS, a Board Certified Periodontist, provides a wide range of dental treatments, including cosmetic dentistry. He treats all ages in his offices in the Carrollton, TX, and Grapevine, TX areas. Most dental health plans are accepted. For a consultation or dental checkup, you can contact his office today at (817) 756-8578.