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Eating after you brush your teethWe all know that eating after brushing your teeth is considered taboo. Did you know that brushing your teeth directly after eating isn’t good either? While many people think that popping into the bathroom to give their teeth a quick scrub is a good work habit, it could actually be damaging your teeth. After you eat something acidic, your tooth enamel is briefly weakened. Thankfully, it bounces back after 30 minutes to an hour. If you brush your teeth directly after eating tomato sauce, you could actually be doing more harm than good.

Even though we know it’s bad for our teeth, we still do it. You should always use wisdom and not reintroduce food into your clean mouth. When you eat, your mouth is covered with particles of food. Bacteria on your teeth consume these particles, creating plaque. Plaque is what breaks down your tooth enamel and leads to cavities if allowed to build up long enough. Eating after brushing teeth is complicated, so let’s examine two different beverage options: orange juice and water after brushing your teeth.

Orange juice after brushing teeth

Orange juice is a common morning pick-me-up. While it’s chock full of vitamins and minerals, it’s not the best thing to drink after brushing your teeth. That’s because it’s both highly acidic and full of sugar. This combination could spell disaster for your teeth if you regularly drink a glass after brushing.

Our teeth are most protected when they’re regularly cleaned, but the “dirty” side of plaque control can be beneficial. Our teeth should go through a cycle from “brushed clean” to “slight film of tartar” several times a day. That’s because this thin tartar film can actually protect your teeth from acidic foods. When you drink a glass of orange juice after brushing your teeth, not only will it taste bad, but you’re putting acid and sugar directly onto your enamel. This allows plaque to form much more quickly. The acid will also weaken your enamel. Orange juice is best drunk while you have a slight film of tartar—towards the middle of your meal. Just remember to wait to brush after breakfast!

Water after brushing teeth

Most people rinse with water directly after brushing their teeth. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting to clean your mouth, you should avoid rinsing with water. When you rinse away the last of your toothpaste, you rinse away the fluoride in it as well. Fluoride actually helps to strengthen your enamel. It needs time to “soak in” to your enamel. Waiting just ten minutes post-brushing to rinse or drink water will help. Thankfully, because water contains no sugar, there is nothing for bacteria to feed on. If you do have a drink early nothing will happen. However, you are preventing your fluoride toothpaste from working as well as it could.

Teeth are complicated. While you need to prevent extreme plaque buildup, a layer of tartar can protect your teeth from acids and sugars. You should take care to brush at least half an hour before or after eating. You don’t want to expose weakened enamels to any potential problems.