Wellness

Dental Brushing or Rinsing After Meals?

Girl drinking from water fountain. Drinking water is great for overall dental care.

After consuming a meal, should you brush your teeth or rinse your mouth? For years, dental professionals have advised patients to brush their teeth at least twice daily immediately after meals. But new research is challenging dentists to reconsider this traditional advice.

Scientists have documented that more than 600 different types of germs reside in the mouth. Most are harmless, but there are bacteria that can damage oral tissues. When foods we consume throughout the day are left on tooth surfaces, the bacteria works with acids in foods to form plaque, a sticky substance that adheres to teeth. If left untreated, plaque can cause cavities and gum disease, also known as periodontitis.

Historically, dentists have advised patients to brush shortly after consuming foods to remove food particles that cling to teeth and form plaque. But according to the Academy of General Dentistry, when teeth are brushed too soon after a meal, the acids can actually damage tooth surfaces and gum tissues.

Dental researchers discovered that within the first 30 minutes after eating, saliva in the mouth naturally reduces acids left on teeth to a normal pH level. Instead of brushing, patients should rinse with water or an antibacterial mouthwash immediately after eating to remove loose food particles, and then engage in tooth brushing one half-hour later. If water or mouthwash is not available, another option is to chew sugarless gum or string cheese.

To learn more about good dental care, read Germs That Lurk in Your Mouth.

 

  • Anonymous ,

    Awesome article.

    • James Bergman ,

      It is good to know that I need to wait half an hour after eating to brush my teeth. I just worry that it will mean that I won’t brush my teeth as often. I’m normally working half an hour after eating breakfast and lunch. What do you suggest I do. Should I just set aside one of my breaks to brush my teeth?

      • Ameritas Insight ,

        Waiting half an hour is a good rule, but if the most convenient time to brush your teeth is right after you eat, it’s much better to do that than not brush at all.
        Hope that helps!

        • HA ,

          That’s terrible advice, Ameritas. To James: just rinse your mouth with water.

          • Ameritas Insight ,

            Our previous response: “Waiting half an hour [to brush] is a good rule, but if the most convenient time to brush your teeth is right after you eat, it’s much better to do that than not brush at all.” Rinsing your mouth with water is important, but you should brush your teeth twice a day as well.

            • Yatik ,

              Can we use mouthwash ( listerine ) just after eating something or drinking milk in morning

              • Ameritas Insight ,

                Hi Yatik, It is recommended that, instead of brushing, you should rinse with water or an antibacterial mouthwash immediately after eating to remove loose food particles, and then engage in tooth brushing one half-hour later.

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