Brush teeth regularly to maintain oral health  |  Photo Credit: iStock Images
- Replace your toothbrush head every three months, but if you’re an aggressive brusher.
- Worn out or spread out bristles are not capable of cleaning the cracks and pits and grooves of your teeth.
- Also, whenever you brush, spend at least two minutes covering all sides of the teeth and tongue.
Most of us grow up following the routine of reaching out for the toothbrush and toothpaste while still sleepy from the nightlong sleep. But not all persons brush their teeth as soon as they wake up, many do so after breakfast.
What if your hands find the first cup of coffee or a steaming hot breakfast before you grab the toothbrush, does it really make a difference if you brush and floss after breakfast? Perhaps, yes – say some!
So, who is brushing at the correct time? Dentists are the best authority on dental hygiene and therefore should be able to tell us whether we should brush teeth before or after breakfast — and how to get those pearly whites sparkling clean regardless of when one brushes, right?
Dr Philip Bomeli of Solon Orthodontics (Ohio) says we must understand the biology of teeth, bacteria and chemicals in the mouth. Normal saliva production during the day washes away food particles to keep our teeth cleaner, a job it does efficiently – thanks to the cells in it which combat bacteria and infection and the proteins and minerals that prevent tooth decay.
Dr Bomeli compares the waking time scenario with how the number of bacteria in our mouths increases as we sleep – the nasty effect of it is seen amply in the morning breath. But there is another effect you do not immediately smell or see – THE PLAQUE BUILDUP. Bacteria in plaque convert sugar and carbohydrates into acids which attack our gums and enamel (the hard, protective outermost layer of teeth), and can lead to gingivitis (a type of gum disease involving red, swollen gums that may bleed) and cavities.
Dr Bomeli gives us two scenarios: Brushing before breakfast and brushing after breakfast.
If You Brush Before Breakfast: Brushing and flossing first thing in the morning removes the plaque that has built up during the night. That robs the bacteria of the feast of the sugar and carbs that it could have enjoyed in that breakfast with you. Just rinsing your mouth with water after your meal I enough if you have brushed your teeth before breakfast and you can floss if needed. This should set you up for good dental hygiene the day long.
Shape.com quotes Dr Amber Bonnaig, the dental director of Georgia for DentaQuest, a health care company that provides dental benefits, who bats for a pre-breakfast brushing session. “We encounter a lot of highly acidic foods throughout the day, whether it be fruit, juice, bread, coffee, things of that sort, that can weaken the enamel,” says Dr Bonnaig, and brushing your teeth first thing can reduce the odds of your morning meal causing harm, she explains.
If You Choose to Brush After Breakfast: But if you have decided to bite into the yummy breakfast and tea/coffee etc before brushing, do not brush your teeth immediately. Postpone brushing for 20-30 minutes after your meal. Why shouldn’t you brush immediately after eating? More significantly, brushing your teeth immediately after breakfast can do more harm than good. Those acidic foods can weaken the enamel for a short period of time and brush too soon after noshing on them — while your enamel is still in a delicate state — can cause damage, says Dr Bonnaig. Many foods and beverages, especially acidic ones such as grapefruit and orange juice, can weaken the surface of your teeth. If you rinse with water after eating and wait at least 20-30 minutes before brushing, your enamel will be “remineralized” (another benefit of saliva) and ready for cleaning.
Delaying brushing for too long can have serious effects if not promptly removed once you wake up. When bacteria sit on teeth for too long, it can form plaque — a sticky, white film that can destroy tooth enamel and cause cavities, leading to gingivitis.
What is worse is that plaque later hardens and turns into tartar, which cannot be removed with a toothbrush and requires a professional oral cleaning to eliminate. If left untreated or not removed, tartar can also eventually cause periodontal disease — a serious infection that damages the gums and can destroy the bone that supports your teeth, according to the Mayo Clinic.
How often and how long should you brush in a day?
The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes each time.
Mayo Clinic suggests that you do the following daily:
- Brush and floss daily, but gently. Reckless, jerky flossing movements can harm teeth roots.
- Use mouthwash after brushing and flossing.
- Drink plenty of water. Rinse mouth after eating.
- Eat a healthy diet and limit sugary food and drinks.
- Avoid frequent snacking.
- Replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles are irregular or splayed.
- Schedule regular dental checkups with X-rays and cleanings.
Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purpose only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.