Should you wait to eat after brushing your teeth?

strawberry on top of toothbrush
Chew a piece of sugarless gum for about 20 minutes after eating, then brush. No smacking please.
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There's no doubt about the importance of brushing your teeth. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends you brush your teeth twice a day with ADA-recommended fluoride toothpaste; thoroughly floss after brushing; eat a balanced diet; and visit a dentist regularly for checkups [source: ADA. After you brush, however, can you go right back to eating, or do you need to wait a while?

Everything you put in your mouth comes into contact with the enamel that covers your teeth. Tooth enamel has a tough yet extremely important job: It's the clear, hard covering that protects your teeth from all the food and drinks that pass over them, as well as the general biting and chewing you do every day. Tooth enamel is, in fact, the strongest substance in the human body [source: Kam].


With such a heavy workload, it's easy to see why tooth enamel needs to be protected -- the constant punishing of your enamel without proper maintenance can produce disastrous results for your teeth. If you eat a diet high in sugar and carbohydrate-rich foods and don't properly care for your mouth, you're putting your enamel at risk for erosion from bacteria. Significant erosion of your enamel can lead to problems such as sensitivity to hot and cold, discoloration of teeth, susceptibility to chipped teeth, cavities and tooth decay [source: Kam].

Dr. Douglas Rolfe, a dentist in Boca Raton, Fla., explained, "Any food or drink with a low pH [acidic] can cause enamel erosion. Colas are the gold standard," he explains. "[Sugary] energy drinks and many commercial iced teas may be worse and are growing in popularity. Soft, high-carbohydrate, sugar-filled foods linger a long time on the teeth, which do more harmful than protein-rich or fatty foods." Since enamel isn't a living substance, once it begins to break down from teeth, it has to be artificially replaced by your dentist [source: ADA].

Now you know why your tooth enamel needs to be protected. You still have to eat though, so let's see if there's a correlation regarding tooth enamel, eating and the length of time you wait to brush your teeth.