Let’s say you have a friend who always brushes their teeth after their morning meal, and won’t do it any differently. Another friend may swear by their habit of brushing before breakfast and refuses to consider any other option. Which one of your two friends has the healthier habit?
After a long night of sleeping, bacteria are plentiful in your mouth. The warm and moist environment makes a for a perfect place for bacteria to flourish. Brushing your teeth first thing in the morning lets you remove much of this bacteria before they have a chance to do any real damage. Furthermore, if you’re someone who enjoys acidic beverages like orange juice as part of your breakfast, you have another reason to brush your teeth before eating. Brushing immediately after consuming an acidic food can actually be damaging to your tooth enamel, and end up doing more harm than good.
Food and drink that are high in simple carbohydrates, such as sugar, stain your teeth as they pass through your mouth, turning teeth into a perfect breeding ground for bacteria looking for a place to call home. As bacteria settle and colonize, they form a layer of biofilm commonly known as dental plaque. Acidic compounds are produced as a byproduct of these bacteria digesting these simple sugars. These compounds damage your teeth by weakening tooth enamel, which results in issues such as tooth decay, dental caries (cavities), and gingivitis. A standard North American breakfast tends to be high in simple carbohydrates. Cereal, muffins, and white bread are just some examples of this. Therefore, brushing your teeth after eating helps you remove much of these sugars and prevent bacteria from colonizing your teeth.
So, it seems as though brushing after breakfast is better for removing bacteria, but brushing before breakfast will prevent damage to tooth enamel from acidic foods and drinks. What’s the best course of action then? As with many topics of debate, there is no well-defined “best” answer. Brushing before or after each has their pros and cons, and it ultimately comes down to your personal lifestyle choices to determine what’s best. Enjoy drinking a glass of juice or coffee every morning? Maybe you want to brush before that morning pick-me-up. More of a cereal person? Brushing after breakfast might be better for you. In the end, we’re happy either way as long as you’re actually brushing your teeth in the morning!
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