Brushing Right After Eating Could Wreck Your Teeth

But brushing before eating isn’t the right move, either.


We’re all pretty set in our own oral care routines. Some of us brush our teeth before breakfast; others would argue that brushing after is the way to go. In the scramble to just get ourselves together and out the front door, most of us don’t think too much about it.

But ultimately, whatever you choose could have a major impact on your breath, your teeth and, well, your entire day. To guide you down the right path, we sat down with Dr. Matt Messina of the American Dental Association to find out once and for all whether you should brush your teeth before or after meals. Here’s what he had to say:

“You generally want to brush after meals—rather than before—so that you can get all of the food you just ate off your teeth,” Messina explains. “But you don’t want to brush directly after eating, especially if you’ve eaten something that’s acidic—orange juice, lemonade and so forth.”

This, he explains, is because foods containing citric acid weaken tooth enamel, and brushing too soon after eating them can permanently damage the enamel in its vulnerable state. For best results, Messina recommends waiting 30 minutes before brushing your teeth after eating anything, but especially after eating something acidic.

If 30 minutes is too long—say, you have to head off to work ten minutes after you’re done with your toast and cereal—Messina recommends drinking a glass of water or chewing sugarless gum to wash away the acids, since chewing sugar-free gum increases the flow of saliva, which in turn reduces plaque, strengthens the teeth and reduces tooth decay. This will allow you to brush your teeth sooner without doing damage and freshen your breath.

Oh gum, what would we do without you?