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Should you wait to eat after brushing your teeth?

By: Stefani Newman  | 

How long should you wait between eating and brushing?

So, you've just brushed your teeth. Your mouth feels refreshed and your breath smells minty -- and you're hungry. Should you wait to eat after you brush? Will food damage your teeth you've just brushed? The general consensus from dentists we surveyed is no, you don't have to wait -- but there are some exceptions. Dr. Jeremy Rosenberg, a dentist in Atlanta, Ga., said, "Technically, the average person doesn't have to wait to eat after brushing. For someone who is cavity-prone, however, the fluoride in the toothpaste does benefit the enamel of the teeth. Once you eat though, most of the fluoride will be washed away."

The cycle of eating and brushing can get tricky if you don't need to wait to eat after you brush, and then you brush after you eat -- over and over again during the day. If you eat sugary or acidic foods or drinks, the enamel on your teeth will be softened. Therefore, brushing right after you eat may not be wise. Dr. Rolfe explains that if you just had an acidic or sugary snack, you should gargle with a fluoride mouthwash and not brush your teeth. The damaging food or drink will soften the teeth surface, so if you brush right away, you will actually abrade a lot of tooth structure in the process. Dr. Rolfe recommends rinsing with water after eating, but wait for about 20 minutes before brushing.

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Dr. Rosenberg explains that chewing sugarless gum always helps if you can't brush for a while because it stimulates saliva production, which helps to neutralize acids and fight bacteria in your mouth. Flossing or rinsing will also help dislodge any food particles that may become stuck between your teeth, and tongue scrapers are a good tool for removing bacteria that are stuck to the surface of your tongue. When you do brush your teeth, Dr. Rosenberg also suggests you gently clean the roof of your mouth and gums to remove extra bacteria.

Teeth Brushing FAQ

Is it okay to skip brushing your teeth?
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends you brush your teeth twice a day, but if you skip a brush every once in a while, your teeth will likely be just fine. However, if you've had acidic or sugary foods since you last brushed, you should do your best to avoid skipping.
How long should you brush your teeth for?
The American Dental Association (ADA) suggests brushing for two minutes at a time.
How long should you wait to eat after brushing your teeth?
The general consensus from dentists is that you don't really have to wait at all between brushing and eating, though eating or drinking while your mouth is still minty may taste gross. For someone who is cavity-prone, however, it does benefit your teeth to wait for 20 minutes to allow the fluoride in the toothpaste more time on the teeth before it's washed away.

Originally Published: Sep 7, 2011

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Sources

  • American Dental Association (ADA). "Brushing Your Teeth (Cleaning Your Teeth and Gums)." (Aug. 29, 2011) http://www.ada.org/5624.aspx?currentTab=1
  • American Dental Association (ADA). "Oral Health Topics: Tooth." (Aug. 29, 2011) http://www.ada.org/3057.aspx?currentTab=1
  • Kam, Katherine. "Tooth Enamel Erosion." WebMD. (Aug. 29, 2011) http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/healthy-teeth-10/tooth-enamel-protection
  • O'Hare, Nick. "Why does orange juice taste so awful after you brush your teeth?" The Sunday Times. Sept. 27, 2007. (Sept. 3, 2011) http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article2538282.ece
  • Rolfe, Doug, D.D.S. Personal Correspondence. Aug. 30, 2011.
  • Rosenberg, Jeremy, D.D.S. Personal Correspondence. Aug. 31, 2011.