When Is the Best Time to Brush Your Teeth, Really?
During the holidays, do you ever feel like you’ve spent all day grazing instead of eating three solid meals?
You’re not alone.
This can occur thanks to schedules being thrown off, often with family dinners and holiday parties that offer a host of delicious treats. While you might notice the result of these snacking sessions on your waistline, did you know that you could also experience changes in your mouth? Yes, increasing your sugar intake without upping your brushing frequency could lead to an increase in the bacteria in the mouth that spurs cavities.
So, when is the best time to brush if you’re away at Grandma’s all day munching on decadent sweets? Never fear, the experts at Dr. Ku’s office have created a cheat sheet of dental recommendations for you, including when to brush as well as alternative options to protect your teeth when you’re on the go and don’t have time to brush!
Top teeth-brushing recommendations
The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes each time. This probably isn’t big news for any of our dental patients, but you might be shocked to learn that only 69% of Americans brush their teeth twice a day!
In addition, while there is no hard–and-fast rule for when you brush your teeth (pre or post eating, for instance), the most popular times are in the morning and at night.
As it turns out, it probably doesn’t matter whether you brush before or after breakfast. Your teeth will get clean either way. There is, however, a caveat that applies to after-breakfast brushers—if your meal contains orange juice or anything acidic (coffee not included), we recommend waiting 30 minutes after your meal to pick up the toothbrush. Since the acid in food interacts with the enamel on your teeth, you can do microscopic damage to the enamel if you brush right away.
Since it doesn’t seem to make much difference to opt for before or after-eating brushing, it might be in your best interest (and anyone else nearby) to freshen up prior to any evening family meal instead of after!
What about brushing during the day?
If you like to enjoy the holiday spirit and sip hot chocolate or nibble on goodies throughout the day, you might notice your teeth starting to feel—for lack of a better word—dirty. While a day or two of this probably won’t raise too many alarms, if this is an ongoing action during the holiday season, you might start to notice other nasty effects.
First, start your day off by brushing, flossing and using mouth wash. If feasible, bush your teeth after major meals like lunch. This will provide a “reset” midway through the day.
And finally, no matter how tired you are at night, remember to finish the day with brushing, flossing and mouthwash!
Other options throughout the day
If you can’t sneak away to the bathroom to brush your teeth (or are at someone else’s home and don’t have a brush on you), check out these other teeth cleaning tips that can be implemented inconspicuously throughout the day.
- Continually sip on water. Not only will this help if you drink one glass of wine too many, it will also help clean your mouth with every sip. It washes away leftover food and residue that those pesky cavity-causing bacteria are looking for. It also dilutes the acids produced by the bacteria in your mouth.
- Pop some sugar-free gum. This can loosen food particles stuck between your teeth and help produce more saliva, which is what your mouth uses to naturally wash away bacteria and food particles.
- If you have a private moment, try using a wet paper towel to “brush” your teeth. Make sure it isn’t too rough or it may damage your enamel. Wet it with water, and if you happen to have toothpaste or mouthwash nearby, put a dab on the cloth. Wrap it around your finger and brush, just as you would a toothbrush. Don’t forget to wash your hands first!
Any other options?
If you plan on grazing all day, it’s important to choose foods that boost your oral health. While it can never replace brushing, this can help you get from one brushing session to the next. If you see these foods as options at a holiday event, give them a try. Not only are they delicious, they are mouth-friendly as well!
- If you are looking for a mouth-friendly appetizer when at a restaurant (or at home), opt for edamame. This southeast Asian dish is an immature soy bean that is popular when dipped in soy sauce. To pop the bean out of the middle of the shell, place the whole bean in your mouth and slipping the bean in through your teeth. Don’t let the process scare you! The sliding of the bean through your teeth will help dislodge food particles stuck along the gum line.
- Cheese is a great snack that is full of protein, and the dairy and will leave you satisfied and energized throughout just about any afternoon slump. Cheese contains casein, too, which is a protein that has properties known for protecting your teeth from cavities. In addition, some studies have shown that dairy–rich foods have properties that help fight bad breath, too.
- Some of you might be afraid that nuts can harm your teeth due to how hard they are, but the reality is that they have a tremendous amounts of dental benefit to offer. Nuts are packed full of fiber, vitamins and calcium, which are all beneficial to both the teeth and the gums.
- Leafy green stuff doesn0t have to be limited to Christmas trees and wreaths! Winter salads full of leafy greens like spinach and kale make a perfect side dish for all meals. The high–fiber vegetables included in salads act as a power washer on the teeth by creating saliva in the mouth, which in turn washes away bad bacteria.
Don’t avoid holiday merriment or snacks due simply to an inability to brush your teeth. By prioritizing food choices that can naturally clean your teeth and by drinking water, you can mitigate some of the harm of holiday snacking.
Also, don’t forget to book an appointment at our Fort Worth office in the new year to get a professional cleaning and start the year off right!