Brushing Your Teeth Before or After Breakfast: Which Is Better?

We all know the importance of brushing our teeth at least two times a day. But do you put much thought into it when you brush? Some people brush their teeth as soon as they wake up while others wait until after eating breakfast. But which way is better? Should you brush your teeth before or after breakfast? Let’s take a closer look to decide if our morning routine needs a change.

Key takeaways:

Morning breath

Almost everyone has experienced morning breath at some point in their lives. It is very common and possibly the main reason people rush to brush their teeth in the morning. The number one reason for developing morning breath is dry mouth.

Saliva production decreases as we sleep. Saliva is a natural buffer for the mouth and helps control bacteria growth. So, less saliva means more bacteria to break down the food particles left on teeth. This produces a smelly byproduct called volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs), which is why our breath smells worse in the morning. Other things can make morning breath worse, like:

  • Mouth breathing
  • Acid reflux
  • Certain food
  • Smoking
  • Some medications
  • Wearing dental appliances at night

So, good oral hygiene is crucial. When oral bacteria are not removed on a regular basis, your risk of developing things like cavities or periodontal disease increases. So, make sure to brush your teeth every morning.

Should you brush before or after breakfast?

Determining the best time to brush your teeth in the morning depends significantly on your regular daily routine. The most significant factors are what you are eating and when. Some people may benefit from brushing before breakfast, while others should wait until after eating. Let’s see why.

Brushing teeth before breakfast

Brushing your teeth as soon as you wake up helps to remove the extra bacteria that overgrow while you sleep. Plus, it gets rid of that smelly morning breath, too. But that’s not all.

Brushing first thing in the morning may help kick-start saliva production in some people. Saliva is important for digestion and moving food from the mouth. Saliva is also a natural protectant. It can help ward off harmful bacteria and buffer the pH to help protect the enamel.

Also, fluoride coats the teeth for an added layer of protection from bacteria while you eat. This is especially true for acidic juices or fruit commonly eaten for breakfast.

Just make sure to wait at least 30 minutes after brushing to eat. This allows the fluoride in your toothpaste to do its job of strengthening the enamel before it is washed away with eating.

Brushing teeth after breakfast

However, there are times when it may be better to brush after breakfast. If you are eating something with lots of sugar or carbs, like cereal or donuts, it's best to brush afterward. These types of food increase the risk of cavities. Cavity-causing bacteria easily break down carbs into acid, which damages the enamel. Therefore, it's essential to remove any food remnants to prevent tooth damage. Brushing with fluoride toothpaste after you eat helps remineralize tooth structures to repair the damage.

The American Dental Association recommends waiting at least 60 minutes after eating to brush your teeth. This allows your saliva to neutralize your mouth's pH and repair your enamel before brushing.

Which way is better?

There may always be a debate on brushing your teeth before or after breakfast. Both can provide some benefits. But science seems to support brushing before eating breakfast more. And here’s why:

  • Remove the overgrowth of bacteria that happens overnight.
  • Stimulate the saliva for natural enamel protection and digestion aid.
  • Neutralize the pH of the mouth and strengthen the enamel before eating.
  • Coat the teeth with added protection from toothpaste.

How to brush your teeth correctly

Now that we know when to brush, let’s discuss the proper way to brush. Removing plaque and bacteria is crucial to maintain a healthy mouth. Improper brushing increases the risk of cavities and periodontal disease, which can lead to tooth loss. So, follow these steps:

  1. Apply a pea-sized amount of fluoride or hydroxyapatite toothpaste to a soft bristle toothbrush. You can wet the toothbrush bristles before or after placing the toothpaste. Although it is not necessary, the added water helps the toothpaste foam easier.
  2. With a gentle grasp, start with the outer surfaces of your teeth. Angle the toothbrush toward the gumline at 45 degrees. Make sure to sweep along the gumline as well. Your toothbrush should actually brush along the gingiva as well as the teeth.
  3. Using small, circular motions, gently move the brush back and forth until you have brushed all the outer surfaces of your teeth. This should take around 45–60 seconds.
  4. Move to the inside surfaces closest to your tongue. Use the same 45-degree angle and circular motion. These surfaces are often more neglected than the outer surfaces but are just as important. Gently sweep along the gums, as this can be where plaque hides easily. Aim for 45–60 seconds brushing the inner surfaces.
  5. Brush the chewing surfaces of the upper and lower teeth. You can use a back-and-forth motion for these surfaces. Brush for 15–20 seconds.
  6. Brush the tongue. More bacteria live on the tongue than on other surfaces in the mouth. The tongue is a huge source of bad breath. So, don’t skip cleaning it.
  7. Spit out as much toothpaste as you can. Although most people rinse after brushing, you can choose not to. This can allow the toothpaste more time on your teeth to strengthen and repair any damage.
  8. Rinse the toothbrush thoroughly and properly store it to dry. Toothbrushes can harbor dental bacteria, so it is important to properly care for your toothbrush.

Brushing in the morning may be one of the most important parts of your daily routine. But whether you choose to brush before breakfast or after is up to you. Just don’t skip it. Brushing your teeth in the morning does more than remove plaque, and brushing your teeth is one of the easiest ways to help maintain a healthy, happy smile.

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