Is It Better to Brush Teeth Before Or After Breakfast?

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Should you brush teeth before or after breakfast?

Many adults are still unsure of whether it is better to brush teeth immediately after waking up, or whether it makes more sense to wait until after breakfast. And it may come as a surprise that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this often-asked question.

In this article, we aim to give you a realistic and practical answer as to whether or not you should brush your teeth before or after breakfast. 

Reasons to brush your teeth after eating breakfast

In an ideal world where you always have as much time on your hands as you need, the best option is categorically to brush your teeth after breakfast.

The American Dental Association recommends holding off until at least 30 minutes after you have finished your meal before you go ahead and brush your teeth. And if you have had something particularly acidic to eat or drink, such as lemons, grapefruit or soda, waiting 60 minutes is even better. Giving your teeth a bit of time after eating breakfast and before brushing them gives your tooth enamel the time it needs to rest before being brushed.

Giving your enamel a rest period between eating and brushing is important, as acidic and sugary foods and drinks weaken your enamel. Giving the tooth enamel a bit of respite helps it rebuild itself so that the toothbrushing is less abrasive.

Reasons to brush your teeth before breakfast

In some cases, it is better to brush your teeth immediately after waking up and before having breakfast. This is true if you tend to consume a lot of acidic foods and beverages at breakfast, such as coffee or fruit, which can harm and weaken the enamel of your teeth.

As a rule of thumb, if you don’t have time to wait 30-60 minutes as recommended by the American Dental Association after eating before you brush your teeth, it is better to brush first thing in the morning instead.

If you are unable to brush your teeth either before or after breakfast

First of all, you shouldn’t make a habit of skipping toothbrushing in the morning.

But in reality, there are going to be occasions where you are unable to brush your teeth either before or after having breakfast, for example if you are running late and have no other option than eating breakfast on your way to work. 

In these cases, rather than leaving the food particles, acids and sugars to do their thing, you should drink some water and swish some around in your mouth to rinse out any food particles that have gotten stuck between your teeth. 

Sugary and acidic foods and drinks that cause tooth decay

Most people consume an inordinate amount of sugary and acidic foods and drinks for breakfast. 

Some of the most common breakfast foods that are unfortunately also very high in sugar and acid include orange juice and other kinds of fruit juice, sugary cereals and cereal bars, tea and coffee.

Best breakfast foods and drinks for teeth

One of the best things you can do for your dental health is to replace some of the foods and drinks you tend to consume at breakfast with less sugary, less acidic alternatives.

Some of the best breakfast foods you can eat include wholegrain cereals without any added sugars, fruit chopped into pieces, plain yoghurt and water instead of fruit juice. 

Frequently asked questions about brushing teeth before or after breakfast

When is the best time to brush teeth?

You should always make sure that you brush your teeth at least twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening, for at least two minutes every time.

The best time to brush your teeth in the morning is after having breakfast, but not immediately after! The reason for this is that most people’s breakfast entails lots of sugary and acidic foods and drinks, such as orange juice, coffee and sugary cereals. Sugars and acids temporary weaken the tooth enamel, and brushing your teeth while they are in their most weakened state is not recommended.

According to the American Dental Association, you should wait at least half an hour and preferably one full hour between consuming acidic food or drink and brushing your teeth. This gives your tooth enamel the time it needs to recover from the sugar and acid attack of breakfast.

If you are not able to wait at least half an hour after breakfast before you brush your teeth, brush first thing in the morning instead.

Can I eat after brushing my teeth in the morning?

Brushing your teeth in the morning is extremely important, as they will have been coated with plaque overnight. However, you should always try to wait at least thirty minutes after brushing your teeth before your eat or drink anything other than water.

The reason for this is that toothbrushing temporarily weakens your enamel, making your teeth more vulnerable to the acids and sugars in the breakfast foods and drinks you consume.

Bottom line

We all know that proper oral hygiene is important, but in some cases brushing your teeth at the wrong time can do more harm than good. A lot of people brush immediately after consuming highly acidic foods and drinks for breakfast and wonder why their teeth are stained and prone to cavities.

All in all, brushing after breakfast is the best option, provided that you are able to wait at least a half hour between eating your breakfast and subjugating your teeth to the movements of your toothbrush. After-breakfast brushing means that you get rid of the sugars, acids, bacteria and food debris left behind by your meal, as well as any plaque that may have built up in your mouth overnight.

Of course, not all of us have the luxury of waiting between 30 and 60 minutes between eating and brushing every morning. If this is you and you are unable to consistently wait the recommended amount of time between having breakfast and brushing your teeth, it is better to establish a habit of brushing immediately after waking up. This way, you start your morning with a clean and fresh mouth, which will go a long way towards preventing tooth decay and other ills such as morning breath.

Dr Febin Mary George - Editor

With more than 10 years as a dental surgeon, Dr Febin Mary George is passionate about educating consumers around the world to help look after their teeth.

She completed her Bachelor of Surgery at the Century Institute of Dental Science and Research Centre in 2010.

Alongside editing the International Journal of Dental Clinics she has also written for major publications including Thrive Global.