Dental News

When Brushing Does More Harm than Good

July 11, 2015

Brushing immediately after eating acidic foods can damage tooth enamel

When Brushing Does More Harm than Good Normally, dentists are all about encouraging patients to brush promptly after every meal. After all, brushing helps remove plaque bacteria and food debris that could otherwise contribute to cavities and gum disease. So it may surprise you to learn that dentists in Los Angeles are advising patients NOT to brush after eating certain foods.

Why would a dentist ever say this?

Because acidic foods can weaken tooth enamel. If you brush right after eating or drinking something acidic, the scrubbing action can actually etch the enamel.

Think about it like this: When artists want to etch glass, they apply an acid to the surface and then scratch it to create the design. This is basically what occurs if you bathe your teeth in acid and then brush right away.

Common High-Acid Foods and Drinks

Anything with a high citric acid content has the potential to change the pH of your mouth, creating an acidic environment that will soften tooth enamel. The most common foods and drinks that can have this effect include:

  • Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and grapefruit
  • Apples
  • Pickles
  • Soda
  • Wine
  • Sports drinks

How to Prevent Enamel Damage

The good news is that eating or drinking acidic foods only weakens enamel temporarily. Therefore, you can easily prevent enamel damage with these simple tips.

  • Wait Before Brushing: After eating or drinking something acidic, it can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes for your saliva to naturally restore the pH of your mouth to a normal range. Therefore, simply by waiting a little while before brushing, you can avoid damaging your enamel with your toothbrush.
  • Eat or Drink Something Else: Drinking a glass of water, eating a low-carb & low-sugar food, or chewing some sugar-free gum after your high-acid treat can help neutralize acids and rebalance the pH of your mouth faster.
  • Use a Fortifying Toothpaste: Many toothpastes, especially those made for sensitive teeth, can help rebuild and strengthen enamel. For example a toothpaste with fluoride and potassium nitrate can protect against cavities and reduce sensitivity caused by enamel erosion.
  • Use a Soft or Medium Toothbrush: Brushing your teeth too vigorously can make enamel etching worse. Be sure to use a soft or medium bristled toothbrush to minimize the chances of brushing too hard.

Questions? Visit Your Dentist for Help

If your teeth are already sensitive, if you suspect you have cavities, or if you have visible etching on your enamel, visit your dentist in Los Angeles for expert treatment.

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