We’ve all heard it before: Brush your teeth after meals. And while that suggestion remains valid, we should be wary that you should also wait to brush after certain meals. The saying really ought to be: Brush your teeth after you’ve waited 30 minutes after a meal. Why? Well, studies show that our teeth may be weakened just after a meal, due to the contents of the meal. Waiting for half an hour can help to balance the pH-level of your mouth, while giving your teeth and their enamel time to harden once again. So, what are these substances that can leave our teeth exposed to damage? And what are the best practices for brushing? Is there anything else that you can do to aid your teeth while you’re waiting to reach for the toothbrush? We have the answers to those questions and more, below.

What Substances Leave Your Teeth Prone?

For the most part, we should be concerned about harsh acids that can weaken enamel, leaving the dentin below this protective surface exposed. Weakened enamel can leave your teeth prone to damage, staining, and eventually, tooth decay and possibly tooth loss. To ensure that your enamel remains protective, you should give your mouth time to naturally neutralize the pH level of your mouth. As fresh saliva makes its way into your mouth, it will slowly raise the pH level of your mouth, enabling your enamel to recover. You should be mindful of acidic foods and drinks, as well as acid reflux, which can be especially damaging to enamel.

Acidic Food & Drink

Do you drink sodas? Do you eat oranges? Does every day start with a pot of coffee? Unfortunately, our meals often contain acidic foods, and the drinks we consume may be just as harsh. Check out the pH of the foods and drinks that you consume before you pop them in your mouth, you may be surprised at the foods that could be damaging your enamel. Here’s a short list of foods and drinks that you should be especially wary of (again, be sure to wait to brush after consuming these items):

  • Citric fruit
  • Some berries
  • Tomatoes
  • Grapes
  • Pineapple
  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Sauerkraut
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Soda
  • Coffee
  • Non-herbal teas
  • Grains
  • Sugar

Acid Reflux

If you suffer from acid reflux, you may be doubly prone to enamel damage. During a reflux episode, stomach acid may make its way to your oral cavity, and stomach acid is highly acidic (usually resting somewhere between a pH of 1.5 and 3.5). Be sure to be wary of your reflux episodes, and avoid brushing your teeth immediately after an episode. You can drink water or use a mixture of one part baking soda to eight parts of water as a rinse to help balance the pH in your mouth.

When Should I Brush?

As we mentioned, you should get in the habit of waiting to brush for at least 30 minutes. If you’ve consumed food or drink that is highly acidic, or if you’ve had a reflux episode, you may want to wait for a full hour before you brush your teeth.

Can I Do Anything in the Meantime?

To counteract the acid that remains in your mouth after eating, you can drink water (feel free to swish it around in your mouth as well!). In addition, you can create a solution of one part baking soda to eight parts of water as a mouthrinse to neutralize the pH of your oral cavity. Swish this solution around for 30 seconds or so, then spit it out.

You can also chew sugarless gum after giving your teeth 30 minutes to recover. Sugar-free gum will trigger your mouth to produce more saliva while removing any food debris that may still be resting against your teeth and gums. Chewing gum isn’t an alternative to brushing, but it can be a helpful addition to your daily routine, especially after meals when you don’t have access to a toothbrush.

Regular Cleanings Aid Your Enamel

If you’re concerned about the strength of the enamel of your teeth, don’t fret. With good habits and regular cleaning, you can build strong enamel to protect your teeth. If it’s been a while since you’ve been to the dentist, you can always stop in here at Love to Smile. We’d be happy to provide you with a cleaning, a checkup, and further advice to help you to protect your teeth. Schedule your dental appointment today — we have three locations, in Overland Park, Peculiar, and Lenexa.