Part of maintaining good oral hygiene is making sure to brush your teeth multiple times throughout the day. While most of us know to brush after eating, how soon is too soon? In order to answer that question, the orthodontic practice of Dr. Dennis Flanagan DDS MS will first explain the science behind tooth structure. Understanding this will help better explain why brushing right after eating is bad for your teeth.
The Science Behind Tooth Structure
The outermost area of the tooth is called enamel. It is the protective layer of each tooth and also the strongest structure in the body. Even stronger than any bone. Enamel is made of crystal rods that project outward and towards the mouth. These crystal rods have minerals like calcium and phosphates in them to help make teeth strong.
PH Levels, Explained
Understanding PH and how it affects your oral health is another important factor in knowing when to brush after eating. Simply put, PH is the measure of how acidic your mouth is. The lower the PH, the more acidic your mouth is.
At rest, the PH in your mouth should be about 6.5. When you eat or drink acidic or sugary foods, like orange juice, the PH goes down. When you consume things like milk, the PH goes up. Once the PH falls below 5.5, the teeth begin to lose minerals in the enamel and are more prone to cavities.
How Minerals Affect the Teeth
Whenever we eat, we lose some of these minerals. This process is called de-mineralization. During this time, the teeth are most vulnerable because the enamel is softer than usual. After about 20 to 30 minutes, saliva helps these minerals return in a process called re-mineralization. If you brush before this process can complete, you could be brushing away enamel and lose even more minerals that protect your teeth.
Tips for Brushing After Eating
Don’t have 20-30 to wait to brush your teeth after eating? Carry a portable waterpik in your purse or backpack. Use a mouth rinse shortly after eating to wash away any leftover food debris safely from your mouth. When it is time to brush, be sure to use a fluoride toothpaste. Doing so makes de-mineralization start at about a 4.5 PH level instead of 5.5 and start re-mineralization sooner.
Whether you’re in braces or clear aligners, it is important to maintain a healthy smile in between orthodontic visits. Knowing when to brush and what products to use is a vital part of the success of your treatment plan. For questions about taking care of your teeth during orthodontic treatment, don’t hesitate to contact our office. We’re always happy to help. Happy brushing!