‘Should I brush my teeth before or after breakfast?’ – Dental experts explain all

Since being a child you’ve had it drummed into you to brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes, with regular flossing – if you remember.

But there’s always been an age-old dilemma to keeping our pearly whites nice and clean – should we brush before breakfast or after breakfast?

It really isn’t as cut and dried as you might think, with some dentists very much divided on the best thing to do.

Of course, whatever your morning routine, it’d be be difficult to change course now.

But you may not actually need to.

Let’s see what the experts say and you can make your own mind up!

‘Brush before breakfast’
Experienced dentist Dr Kunal Patel told Woman&Home : “It makes sense to brush your teeth before breakfast as you will have a build-up of natural acid in your mouth immediately after you’ve eaten and run the risk of damaging the enamel if you brush then.”

Fellow tooth expert Dr Anjum Maryam Jahan, agrees saying: “If you are brushing immediately after you have eaten, you are effectively brushing the acid onto your teeth which can erode your enamel.”

Elsewhere, Dr Sameer Patel, clinical director at Elleven Dental Wellness, Harley Street, told the Telegraph: “For tooth decay to start, three things are required: bacteria, sugar and time.

“Overnight, you naturally develop plaque. This is, in essence, a sticky film of bacteria. That’s why you don’t wake up with great breath. If you don’t brush, you then introduce sugar to the equation at breakfast.”

He says this provides the perfect storm for decay as all three elements are present.

If you brush before breakfast “you go into eating with no bacteria, so that process of decay doesn’t start”.

A US study says that brushing stimulates saliva production, which helps to break your food down.

And if you’re bristling with fluoride ahead of breakfast, this is even better news, for the naturally occuring mineral can help strengthen teeth and prevent tooth decay. Think of it as guarding your teeth as you eat.

Although others aren’t convinced …

‘Brush after breakfast’
So far so good, but not everyone agrees, with some experts thinking you should brush after breakfast.

Dr Carlos Gonzalez-Cabezas, dentist and professor at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, says: “There are lots of misconceptions, even among dentists, on this subject. People think brushing is all about removing food and plaque. Actually, it’s also an extremely important delivery method for fluoride.”

He says if you brush before breakfast, you will actually remove a lot of this mineral while you’re chewing away.

The doctor says there are many subtleties around acid damaging your enamel.

“There’s a difference between drinking grapefruit juice, and eating a piece of grapefruit. When you’re eating the fruit, you produce a lot of saliva which compensates for that acid, so you don’t have to worry too much. Drink it as juice and yes, the effect is much more aggressive.”

But what does he think about the idea of removing plaque before exposing your teeth to the full horrors of a sugar and carby breakfast?

“There’s some sense there. But the reality is that 95 per cent of people aren’t able to remove plaque from the places where cavities develop when they brush.”

He adds that most people munch their breakfast very quickly, which doesn’t leave much of a window for your teeth to get damaged. So if you brush straight after eating “you remove most of those carbohydrates right away, plus some of the bacteria, and you’re delivering fluoride to prevent demineralisation and stimulate remineralisation.”

Both strong views, so should we be brushing before and after breakfast?

Dr Gonzalez-Cabezas says: “It’s hard enough to persuade people to brush twice a day: once in the morning and once before bed!”

Whatever method you choose, experts agree that brushing in the morning – whenever you’re able to do it – is far better than skipping brushing your teeth at all.

So when should I floss?
Dr Jahan recommends to floss at the end of the day after you’ve finished eating and drinking.

“That should be enough time to ensure that there are no food particles lodged between your teeth overnight and so no need to floss again in the morning.”

Do I really need to brush my teeth between meals?
You’ll be pleased to hear that Dr Patel says no.

“It’s not necessary to brush your teeth between meals but if you feel like refreshing your mouth during these times, simply rinse out your mouth with water.”

In fact, he says brushing your teeth between meals could be doing more harm than good.

“Brushing your teeth twice daily is sufficient as any more than that and again, you could end up damaging the enamel,” he says. Brushing too often can lead to longer-term issues such as sensitive or receding gums and gingivitis – a common and mild form of gum disease that causes irritation, redness and swelling of your gingiva, the part of your gum around the base of your teeth.