Do you brush before bed? Get home, check the mail, exercise, eat dinner, watch some TV or read, then shower, brush your teeth, and hit the sack. This is the routine for most Americans between 5 and 11pm, Monday through Friday. It seems like a good routine. There’s a balance of exercise, fueling the body, relaxing, and being responsible. Oral health experts are throwing a wrench into the timeline of America’s evening routine. They are bucking the idea of brushing before bed if you have eaten within the last 90 minutes.
Why Stop Brushing Your Teeth Before Bed
After working out, we shower to remove sweat and oils from our body. We like to be clean. It makes sense, then, that after eating, we should brush our teeth to remove food particles and clean our teeth. This is an apples to oranges comparison, though. The reason we brush teeth isn’t to remove food particles.
Sure, some food may stick to your teeth, but most remaining food particles can only be removed by flossing, not by brushing. The reason your mom and your dentist recommend brushing teeth is to remove oral bacteria, mostly in plaque. You see, when you eat anything with sucrose (sugar) or fermentable carbohydrates (starch), the bacteria in your mouth produce a strong acid. This acid changes the oral pH from neutral (7) to acidic (4.5).
The acidic environment lasts for an hour or more, and during this time, tooth enamel softens. The acid extracts minerals that keep teeth strong, and we call this demineralization. In the softened state, tooth enamel is subject to erosion and bacterial invasion. The result? Thinner tooth enamel from acid erosion and tooth decay (cavities) from bacterial invasion.
Brushing your teeth after dinner, before bed, actually wears down softened tooth enamel. Experts believe that you should brush before meals, not after. Doing so will remove much of the bacteria that contribute to acid formation.
When to Brush, Floss, Rinse, Tongue Scrape
- Morning: Brush right when you wake, before coffee and certainly before breakfast. Use your tongue scraper after brushing teeth.
- After breakfast: Now’s the time to floss and rinse with mouthwash.
- After lunch: Rinse with water!
- Evening: When you get home from work, before dinner or snacks, brush your teeth.
- Before bed: Floss and rinse with mouthwash, and you’ll go to sleep with a minty mouth.
Beyond the Brush
Maintaining a healthy mouth requires more than proper brushing and flossing. You need to visit Dr. Fondriest every six months, or as directed, for a checkup and cleaning. Between visits, if you notice tooth stains, experience a toothache, or have a dental emergency, call for an appointment. We’re always here for you!
Lake Forest Dental Arts and cosmetic and general dentist Dr. James Fondriest serves the greater Chicago area, including the North Shore suburbs.